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North Murray played the role of homecoming spoiler to Johnson, as the Mountaineers left Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium in Oakwood with a 27-13 win on Friday night.
Mountaineer coach David Gann felt the two-hour bus ride home to Chatsworth will be a much shorter ride over after solid performance in all phases of the game.
“We are very lucky to get out of here with a win,” Gann said. “They are a well-coached team and are headed in the right direction under (Jason Roquemore’s) leadership.”
After stopping Johnson’s (2-2) opening drive, North Murray (3-0) used an eight-play drive to take the 7-0 lead with 5:44 left in the first quarter. The Mountaineers were able to run the ball effectively on the drive, which set up quarterback Brady Swilling’s play-action pass to Christian Bukle. Bukle then ran 24 yards for the score.
On the Knights’ ensuing drive, Luis Hernandez took a toss from the quarterback down the left sideline for a 73-yard touchdown score.
The Mountaineer’s answer came by way of a 2-yard run by John Christian on a six-play drive that lasted two minutes and 14 seconds.
Again the Knights used their most explosive weapon of the night, Hernandez, on a sweep again to the left side. He scored on his second 73-yard run of the night, giving him two touchdowns on two carries.
These were his only two carries of the night, and Hernandez finished with the night with 146 yards rushing.
The back-and-forth of the second quarter was not finished, as Swilling added to the North Murray total with a 6-point run of his own from 22 yards out. The score put the Mountaineers up 20-13 heading into the locker room for halftime.
Mountaineer running back Jacob Mays began the second half with an 84-yard touchdown return on the Knights’ kickoff, the final score of the game.
Johnson’s defense was able to make a couple of third-down stops and momentum began to sway in their favor at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Mountaineers were able to put together a couple of sustained drives in the fourth. The clock-eating drives did not let the Knights’ offense back on the field.
With 5:44 remaining in the game, Taylor Mays picked up a fourth-down fumbled snap and took the ball for 20 yards and first down, killing all momentum for Johnson.
“The fourth down play was not planned,” Mays said. “After I dropped it, I looked up and it looked like the Red Sea had parted so I just picked it up and ran.”
Mays finished the night with a team-high 106 yards on 17 carries.
North Murray knew they had a huge task in trying to stop Johnson running back Cedric Harris, who entered the game with 531 yards on 91 carries and an area-best seven touchdowns.
“We concentrated our efforts all week on stopping No. 33 (Harris), which somehow we were able to slow him down.” Gann said.
The area’s leading rusher, Harris finished the night with 91 yards on 10 carries. His best runs came the third quarter in which he had runs of 39 and 17 yards.
“Our players and coaches were able to make adjustments at the right time and get him to run to the outside more than up the middle,” Gann added.
Roquemore chimed over and over again how this team must learn to be consistent.
“Our biggest problem right now is consistency.” Roquemore said. “We have to get better at executing and stop making mini mistakes.”
The Knights lost two of their team’s three fumbles.
“We got a late start because I was hired in June, and we are still trying to figure out a lot of things,” Roquemore said, though he followed it quickly with, “we don’t use that as an excuse.”
With the late start mid-season adjustments and game planning can be hard on the Knights. Roquemore says it lessens the amount of time they can work on fundamentals, which ultimately leads to winning games.
“It puts more pressure on all phases of the game when we do not execute the details.” Roquemore added.
Johnson’s senior quarterback Paul Barker went down in the fourth quarter and did not return to action after coming out of the game. Roquemore said he would be evaluated today to determine his status for next week.
Johnson travels to East Hall next Friday.