Eastern Wayne was more than up to the challenge of stopping Hobbton’s high-powered offense on Friday evening in the pouring rain.
Coming into the game, the Wildcats were averaging 51 points per game, but the Warriors limited Hobbton to just 13 points in an 18-13 victory.
With the win, the Warriors improved their record to 4-1 overall and regained their footing after dropping a game against Greene Central last week.
“I love the boys. What we went through at the beginning of the game was tough. One of their teammate’s brother was in a bad accident, so our guys rooted behind that,” Eastern Wayne head coach Leander Oates said. “For our guys to continue to come out here and play, I think our guys fed on that.”
Both offenses could not get much going for most of the first quarter, but in the waning seconds of the first quarter, the Warriors struck first when Trevor Warren threw a 23-yard touchdown pass.
With four minutes left in the second quarter, the Warriors pulled ahead 12-0 on Warren’s quarterback sneak at the Wildcats’ goalline.
Two minutes later, Hobbton’s Loden Bradshaw threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Alzyion Smith, and after the Wildcats converted the extra point, they cut the Warriors’ lead down to 12-7.
The Hobbton defense then made its biggest play of the game on the Warriors’ ensuing drive.
Starting at their own 43-yard line, the Warriors began to drive down the field, but on the fourth play of the drive, Warren’s pass was intercepted by Torren Melvin, who returned it 52-yards for a touchdown.
And in a flash, the Warriors suddenly found themselves down 13-12 at halftime.
“I going to have to go back and look the film on that. The ball looked like it came out wobbly, so I don’t know if a guy got a tip on it, or if the ball just slipped out of his hand,” Oates said.
The Warriors reset in the second half, and five minutes into the third quarter, Eastern Wayne regained the lead when Dennislyn Swinson broke multiple tackles on the way to a 51-yard touchdown run.
“You can see when they hold onto that ball that we can get the yards that we want,” Oates said.
Now holding onto an 18-13 lead, the Warriors’ defense made a big stop on the Wildcats’ next drive.
Starting on the Warriors’ 49-yard line, Hobbton executed a 14-play drive down to the Warriors’ four-yard line, but on fourth down, Bradshaw was sacked, and the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs.
On their next drive, the Warriors also had a turnover on downs, but the defense stepped up again and forced the Wildcats to punt.
Eastern Wayne also had to punt on their next drive, and C.J. Battle delivered a perfect punt that rolled down to the Wildcats’ four-yard line.
“What a punt. It went over the returner’s head, and that’s always a good thing,” Oates said. “What a leg, and I told him (Battle) ‘that’s not small’ so special teams can make a difference.”
With only two minutes left in the game, the Wildcats attempted to drive 96 yards to the Warriors’ end zone, but the Eastern Wayne defense closed the door on the Wildcats, who once again turned the ball over on downs.
The Warriors were then able to enter their victory formation and ran out the clock.
“I commend my defense. I think they did a heck of a job,” Oates said. “Preventing them (Hobbton) from lighting up that scoreboard is a big accomplishment for our guys, and I think going forward that was big.”
Eastern Wayne now enters its bye week before starting Neuse Six 2A Conference play on Oct. 1 against undefeated Princeton.
Oates said the bye week would help the Warriors get healthy and get prepared for their showdown against the Bulldogs.
“I think the bye week is going to give us some time,” Oates said. “You want to make sure you can keep momentum, but I think going into the bye week is going to help us settle down.
“I think it’s a good setup going against a great team.”