By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor
Sunday, September 29, 2013 —
The last time that a varsity football team representing North Stanly posted a 6-1 record to start a season was back in 1984, when head coach John Herlocker’s Comets started 6-0 before finishing the season 7-3 overall.
On homecoming night at R.N. Jeffery Stadium, head coach Ralph Jackson and the Comets rallied from an early deficit and used a balanced attack to improve to 6-1 overall with a 26-24 win over East Montgomery.
The offense for North Stanly (6-1, 4-0 YVC) got a balanced effort from both the ground game led by sophomore running back Antonio Williams and the passing attack with senior quarterback Meleek Thomas.
North gained 373 net yards versus East Montgomery (4-4, 3-2), 200 on the ground and 173 through the air. Williams led the ground assault with 183 yards on 24 carries, including a touchdown, while Thomas delivered three touchdown passes, two to his brother, Caleb Thomas.
However, it was the Comets’ “Lumber Yard” defense that came up with a huge stop late in the game to preserve the victory.
Until that late stand, the Eagles’ power running game was effective, especially in the first half. The Eagles had 174 of their 249 rushing yards in the first half, with all but four yards coming from East’s speedy halfback A.J. Hill. Hill finished Friday’s game with 233 yards overall and three rushing touchdowns.
East Montgomery took the opening kickoff and marched down the field in eight plays over the first 3:40 of the game, with Hill’s six-yard touchdown run giving the Eagles the early 6-0 lead. Javier Jaimez’s extra point was wide left.
After a holding penalty forced a punt, the Eagles added another Hill touchdown after a six-play drive and led 12-0 with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Comets got on the board late in the opening period, using a balanced mix of run and pass to go 68 yards on nine plays, capped off by a Williams three-yard score. The extra point was blocked and the Eagles maintained a six-point lead.
On East’s next possession, the Eagles went for a fake punt at the Comet 41, but Hill was stopped by Caleb Griffin and Matt Gill short of the first-down marker, giving North the ball at the Comet 38. North then took just over three minutes to drive 62 yards, capped off when Meleek Thomas found Caleb Thomas in the middle of the field wide open. After hauling in the pass, Caleb ran over several Eagle defenders and fought into the endzone for the touchdown. Nick Lowder’s extra point put the Comets ahead by a point.
East Montgomery responded immediately as Hill broke off a 48-yard run on the next drive, which was finished three plays later when Colby Maynor found Christian Carr for a 12-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles back up 18-13.
With two minutes left in the first half, North’s Kasey Caulder returned a punt for a touchdown that was called back on an illegal block. The penalty put the ball at the Eagle 49, and three plays later, Caulder hauled in a Meleek Thomas pass on a crossing pattern in the middle of the field and beat the East defense to the far corner of the endzone for a touchdown and a 19-18 North lead.
The first-half fireworks were not done yet as East Montgomery ran a hook-and-lateral on their next drive, netting 50 yards. Hill then finished off the drive with his third touchdown run for a 24-19 lead with 1:09 left in the period.
North caught a break on their final drive of the half when Dylan Blalock’s punt was ruled to have been touched by an East player and Zac Almond recovered the fumble. However, the Comets had an incomplete pass on the final play of the first half and the Eagles led at halftime.
The Comets deferred their choice on the coin toss to start the game and got the football to open the second half. North then took the lead for good on a nine-play, 65-yard drive, capped off by another Thomas-to-Thomas pass connection. After missing twice earlier in the game on long bombs down the field, Meleek Thomas put up a perfectly-arced pass that dropped into Caleb Thomas’ outstretched arms to put the Comets ahead. Lowder’s kick made it 26-24.
Both teams exchanged fumbles in the third quarter and neither team threatened until the final period.
East Montgomery took over after a North punt to start the fourth quarter and drove from the Eagle 40 down into the redzone five plays later. East kept the drive alive on a fourth down and two from the North 18, when Cord Steele ran for two yards and got the nose of the football just past the first-down marker.
From the North 16, Hill ran three times for four net yards, setting up a fourth down and six from the Comet 12. Maynor’s pass was knocked away in the end zone and North Stanly took over.
The Comets then ran out the final 5:34 of the game as Williams and fullback Will Moore combined for 40 yards on 10 plays to secure the win for North Stanly.
North head coach Ralph Jackson gave a great deal of credit to East Montgomery head coach Phil Collett, saying that the East coach “does a great job with his team” and that the Eagles “made some great decisions.”
Jackson also talked about Meleek and Caleb Thomas, saying that they have both worked hard to learn a new offense and that they are great athletes.
The Comet coach also said that his team’s defense has been a second-half team all season long, giving credit to the defensive coaching staff for their efforts all season long.
North Stanly is now tied with West Montgomery with identical 4-0 records in the YVC. The two teams play on Friday night at West Montgomery.
EM 12 12 0 0 24
NS 6 13 7 0 26
EM – A.J. Hill 6 run (kick failed), 8:20, 1st
EM – Hill 6 run (run failed), 3:36, 1st
NS – Antonio Williams 3 run (kick failed), 1st
NS – Caleb Thomas 27 pass from Meleek Thomas (Nick Lowder kick), 7:40, 2nd
EM – Christian Carr 12 pass from Colby Maynor (pass failed), 5:37, 2nd
NS – Kasey Caulder 23 pass from M. Thomas (kick failed), 1:35, 2nd
EM – Hill 10 run (run failed), 1:09, 2nd
NS – C. Thomas 27 pass from M. Thomas (Lowder kick), 7:54, 3rd
1st Downs 19 22
Rushing 40-249 40-200
Passing 71 173
C-A-I 4-8-0 8-20-0
Punts 1-49.0 4-29.8
Penalties 10-77 7-61
Fum.-Lst. 6-2 2-1
3rd Down 3-8 7-12
4th Down 1-3 1-1
TOP 26:33 21:27
Rushing: EM – Hill 30-233, 3 TD; Watkins 4-13; Steele 4-12; Bowden 1-(-1); Maynor 1-(-8). NS – Williams 24-183, TD; Moore 5-20; Riggins 3-13; Caulder 1-3; M. Thomas 6-(-14); TEAM 1-(-5).
Passing: EM – Maynor 4-8, 71 yds, TD. NS – M. Thomas 8-20, 173 3 TD.
Receiving: EM – Carr 2-15, TD; McCollum 2-9. NS – C. Thomas 2-54, TD; Blalock 3-35; Williams 1-43; Caulder 1-23, TD; Almond 1-18.