Kinston stays perfect with another come-from-behind victory
Kinston’s Justin Holloway scores the winning touchdown in Friday’s 13-7 overtime victory against Ayden-Grifton in the first round of the 2A playoffs. William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News
Trailing in the fourth quarter against a conference rival you’ve already beaten, first round of the state playoffs.
Just another week at the office for the Kinston Vikings.
Unbeaten Kinston tied the game on a 65-yard fourth quarter TD pass from Kieren Hooker to Demetri Holmes, took the lead for good on Justin Holloway’s 10-yard run on the first play of overtime, and the Vikings won again in dramatic fashion, knocking off Ayden-Grifton 13-7 in the opening round of the state 2A playoffs Friday at Viking Field.
The victory was fourth-seeded Kinston’s second in overtime and seventh decided by one possession in 2018.
It was also the Vikings’ (11-0) fourth in a row decided either in overtime or by three points or less.
Kinston will host fifth-seeded Clinton (9-2) in the second round.
“We’ve been tested in every situation and we’re confident in a close game that we’re going to come out on top,” Kinston coach Ryan Gieselman said. “We knew we were going to have a battle on our hands tonight, but we never doubted our ability to win.”
Once again, the stars seemed to be aligned in Kinston’s favor, even on an off night by starting quarterback Kieren Hooker.
Plagued by multiple drops from his receivers on a cold night, Hooker completed just 7 of 17 passes for 101 yards.
He was intercepted once but saved his best for last, as has often been the case this season.
With his team trailing 7-0 and facing a third-and eight from the Viking 18, Hooker found B.J. Luter for 17 yards and a massive first down.
On the very next play, Hooker connected with Holmes for the game-tying score, a play that broke free after the Ayden-Grifton (7-5) defensive back slipped on the wet grass and left Holmes all alone.
“The ball just didn’t bounce our way,” A-G coach Paul Cornwell said. “We had opportunities, some fluky things went against us, but in the end, we didn’t make enough plays. Hats off to Kinston for finding a way to win.”
Regulation ended with the Chargers 25 yards away from the game-winning score. The clock ran out after A-G elected not to use its last timeout to make one last attempt at the end zone.
Kinston got the ball first in overtime and Justin Holloway found paydirt on the very first play. A blocked extra point left the Vikings with a vulnerable 13-7 advantage.
Kinston’s defense came up big, however, stopping Charger stalwart Ray Darden for no gain, and then forcing Blake McLawhorn into three straight incompletions to help propel the Vikings into the next round.
“Our defense showed a ton of grit and made big stops all night,” Gieselman said. “That’s the second time we’ve held Ayden-Grifton to seven points, which is a tremendous accomplishment against such a good offense.”
Playing his final game at Ayden-Grifton, senior running back Darden carried 39 times in the contest, accounting for 177 of A-G’s 220 total yards.
“I asked Ray earlier in the week if he was ready to be our workhorse,” Cornwell said. “He did everything we asked of him, ran hard and carried the load. He’s a phenomenal player and an even better young man who’s been an outstanding representative of Ayden-Grifton football.”
Although he didn’t match Darden’s numbers, Kinston’s Holloway was just as valuable, collecting 89 yards on 16 carries. He kept the Viking offense moving every time it seemed to stall.
“On a cold night like this we knew we’d have to run the ball,” Gieselman said. “Justin’s an underrated but very important part of our offense. We would not have won this game tonight without him.”
Ayden-Grifton 0 7 0 0 0—7
Kinston 0 0 0 7 6—13
AG—Josh Wright 2 run (Wyatt Dosch kick), 1:47
K—Demetri Holmes 65 pass from Kieren Hooker (Diego Patino kick), 8:14
K—Justin Holloway 10 run (kick blocked)
First Downs 14 9
Rushes-yards 57-215 29-105
Passing 1-7-0 7-17-1
Passing yards 5 101
Total yards 220 206
Punts-avg 5-30.6 4-31.5
Fumbles-lost 2-0 1-0
Penalties 5-58 6-35
RUSHING—Ayden-Grifton: Ray Darden 39-177, Michael Webb 8-46, Jeffrey Gunter 4-5, Josh Wright 2-4, Marlon Cannon 2-3, Blake McLawhorn 1-2, Team 1-(minus 22). Kinston: Justin Holloway 16-89, Kieren Hooker 11-11, Khari Pitts 2-5.
PASSING—Ayden-Grifton: McLawhorn 1-7-0 5. Kinston: Hooker 7-17-1 101.
RECEIVING—Ayden-Grifton: Casper McGrane 1-5. Kinston: Pitts 4-26, Demetri Holmes 1-65, BJ Luter 1-17, Jacel Jacobs 1-(minus 7).