Greene Central uses strong fourth quarter to defeat South Lenoir
Greene Central’s Knowledge Branch races past South Lenoir’s Jayden Carr during Friday’s contest. Photo by William “Bud” Hardy / Neuse News
DEEP RUN — Greene Central’s 42-18 victory over South Lenoir on Friday was perhaps expected.
The dogfight that was needed to earn that result? Not so much.
The Rams finally broke open a tight contest with a 20-point outburst in the fourth quarter, but not before some seriously anxious moments on Homecoming Night at Thomas Salter Stadium.
“You have to bring your ‘A’ game every week in this conference,” GC coach Allen Wooten said. “South Lenoir has had some tough luck this season. I don’t care what their record is. That’s a good, mentally-tough football team. They gave us everything we wanted.”
The Rams (6-3, 2-1 Eastern Carolina 2A Conference), were clinging to a 22-18 lead when they took possession at the Blue Devil 35 following an 18-yard punt.
Four plays later, quarterback A.J. Dupree escaped pressure and improvised his way to a 24-yard TD run that gave GC some breathing room.
After the Devils (1-6, 0-4) were stopped on downs on their next possession, GC’s Knowledge Branch made SL pay on the very next snap, exploding up the gut for a 48-yard score with 4:26 left in the game.
Dupree then connected with Zakvil Smith on a 24-yard TD pass with 1:08 remaining after SL fumbled away the ensuing kickoff.
“We’re beat up with injuries and we’ve got kids playing out of position, but that’s no excuse,” Wooten said. “South Lenoir was more physical than we were; we were just hoping to survive and get to our bye week, so we can heal up.”
No one personified SL’s physical play more than running back Jayden Carr.
The 5-8 senior gashed the Rams defense for 192 yards on a punishing 29 carries. Carr reached the end zone twice, on a 44-yard scamper in the third quarter, and he also hauled in a 33-yard TD pass from former QB Brett Huffman on a nifty jet sweep reverse pass late in the first half.
“Jayden’s our leader,” SL coach Jeremy Joyner said. “We hitched our wagon to him tonight and he carried us a long way. I couldn’t be prouder of him, and of the effort given by the entire team.”
Greene Central raced to a 14-0 first quarter lead and seemed well on its way to the expected cakewalk.
But the Devils refused to wilt and closed to within 16-12 at the half.
A huge turning point came when South Lenoir took the second half kickoff and ran 6 minutes off the clock before quarterback Jon Howard was sacked on a 4th and 5 play from the GC 36.
Three players later, aided by a pair of Devil penalties, Dupree connected with Quaheem Giggetts on a 34-yard TD pass that extended the lead to 10.
“We had a nice drive going to start the third quarter,” Joyner said. “A score there to take the lead would have been a huge momentum boost. Instead, we came up empty and they answered back just a few plays later.”
With leading rusher DuPree nursing a gimpy ankle and filling in at quarterback for injured B. J. Corbitt, the Rams turned to sophomore Branch to invigorate the running game.
Branch found the going rough until the SL defense started to wear down in the fourth quarter.
Branch carried the ball 19 times for 121 yards, 68 of which came in the final 12 minutes.
The Rams now have the week off before finishing the regular season with home games against league powerhouses Kinston and Ayden-Grifton.
“We still control our own destiny, which is all you can ask for,” Wooten said. “We just need to get some guys healthy because the schedule doesn’t get any easier.”
South Lenoir returns to action next Friday against winless rival North Lenoir.
“We’re playing better at the right time with North Lenoir coming to town,” Joyner said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
Greene Central 42, South Lenoir 18
Greene Central 14 2 6 20—42
South Lenoir 0 12 6 0—18
GC — Knowledge Branch 1 run (Branch run), 9:42
GC — Branch 23 run (run failed), 1:05
SL — Jon Howard 1 run (run failed), 9:00
GC — Safety, SL penalty in end zone, 5:54
SL — Jayden Carr 33 pass from Brett Huffman (run failed), :15
GC — Quaheem Giggetts 34 pass from A.J. Dupree (run failed), 5:26
SL — Carr 44 run (pass failed), :31
GC — Dupree 24 run (run failed), 7:08
GC — Branch 48 run (run failed), 4:26
GC — Zakvil Smith 24 pass from Dupree (Sayvone Best run), 1:08
First Downs 11 11
Rushes-yards 29-155 44-184
Passing 4-14-0 1-5-0
Passing yards 72 33
Total yards 227 217
Punts-avg 3-45.0 3-22.7
Penalties 6-50 11-90
Fumbles-lost 1-0 5-2
RUSHING — Greene Central: Knowledge Branch 19-121, A.J. Dupree 7-23, Sayvone Best 1-9, Cornelius Smith 1-6, Team 1-(minus 4). South Lenoir: Jayden Carr 29-192, Xavier Mitchell 8-2, Jon Howard 3-(minus 4), Gavin Harrell 3-(minus 4).
PASSING — Greene Central: Dupree 4-14-0 72. South Lenoir: Howard 0-4-0 0, Brett Huffman 1-1-0 33.
RECEIVING — Greene Central: Quaheem Giggetts 3-48, Zakvil Smith 1-24. South Lenoir: Carr 1-33.