Newton-Conover characteristically got off to a slow start Friday against Draughn.
The Red Devils were called for two penalties on offense on the first series, including a touchdown run by Jervasse Herrin negated by a holding penalty.
They traded touchdowns with the Wildcats, and late in the first half Octavius Harden returned a kickoff 96 yards to break a 14-14 tie.
“He’s been doing that all year long, and he continues to do it,” said Newton-Conover head coach Nick Bazzle. “I told the team at halftime that I was just not happy with their performance in the first half. The only reason we were up two scores was we were out-athleting them, not out-executing them.”
The Red Devils started executing after Harden’s game-breaking scoring run. Newton-Conover scored 28 unanswered points and beat Draughn 42-20. The Red Devils are 9-0 overall and travel next week to South Iredell, the only other unbeaten team in the Catawba Valley 2-A.
Bazzle said his team could get in a lot of trouble “really quick” and it needs to win the line of scrimmage next week in Troutman.
Two athletes Newton-Conover used Friday in the first half were fullbacks Jamal Coates and Rashad Kissler. Kissler, who plays nose guard and fullback, had a team-high 106 yards rushing in the first half on two attempts. The 5-foot-6, 220-pound senior’s 86-yard run, the longest of his career, on his second rushing attempt took 18 seconds and gave the Red Devils a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
Kissler joked about slowing down around the 10-yard line, almost fell down before scoring and thought about pitching the ball to a teammate to finish the run. He was the only Red Devil rusher with more than 100 yards rushing in the game — ending with 130 yards on five carries.
Coates had six carries for 56 yards in the first half, and he finished the game with 82 yards and a touchdown. Jervasse Herrin had 89 yards and a touchdown, and Harden rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The senior running back also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Adonis Hewitt giving Newton-Conover a 28-14 halftime lead.
The Wildcats had a solid athlete on display Friday. Quarterback Keith Loomis led the team with 143 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries, 10 more attempts than fullback Adam Manns.
Loomis tied the game at 7 with a 19-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and he added a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter tying the game at 14.
Harden sparked the Red Devils on the ensuing kickoff, but that run was set up by a mistake. Harden fumbled the ball as it rolled between his legs from the Red Devils’ 22 down to the 4. He scooped it up, ran up the left sideline and cut back to the right side of the field for the score.
“I was more mad that he let the thing roll through his legs,” Bazzle said. “When we play a team like South Iredell, a play like that will be a whole heck-of-a-lot harder to do against them.”
The Red Devils, however, righted the ship and scored on their next three possessions for a 42-14 lead.
Draughn added a late touchdown on a 27-yard run by fullback Dustin Bryant.