Football -- Panthers off to 4-0 start
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 12, 2004 2:02 AM
KENLY -- Good football teams are measured by their ability to respond to big plays from an opponent. And how that team handles the adversity builds it character.
County rival West Johnston scored on the game's second play from scrimmage and converted a fumble into a touchdown midway through the second half. Neither big play seemed to break North Johnston's spirit.
The Panthers answered each score with a touchdown of their own and cruised past the Wildcats 46-15 in a non-conference affair Friday evening at Ben E. Strifert Stadium. North Johnston remained unbeaten in four outings, nearly equaling its best start since 1985 when the Panthers won their first five contests as members of the old Class 2-A Capital Area Conference.
West Johnston exited 1-3.
The Wildcats' triple-option attack concerned Panthers' defensive coordinator David Lawhon, and his anxiety level doubled on the game's opening play. Quarterback Brian Flores faked to fullback Sherrill Bryant, then cradled the ball in his chest and rambled 60 yards down the right sideline.
Bryant rumbled in from the 2-yard-line on the next play and the Wildcats led 7-0 -- 19 seconds into the game.
"We had a little blown assignment there," second-year Panthers head coach Ken Avent Jr. said. "It scared me to start with because I didn't know if we were going to stop it or not. He (Flores) does a good job with it."
Panther quarterback Brad Holloman, on his team's first offensive play from scrimmage, replied to Flores' touchdown with a 58-yard scoring gallop. Garrett Stancil added the first of five PATs for a 7-7 tie just 38 seconds into the game.
Once the standing-room-only crowd settled into the bleachers, the North Johnston defense treated its fans to a solid defensive game. Lawhon settled down his smaller linemen, who did an excellent job sticking with their techniques against a bigger Wildcat offensive line.
Flores couldn't find much running room and Bryant, a solid 202-pound back, didn't find too many open holes. Flores managed just 30 yards rushing the rest of the night, while Bryant collected 51 yards.
"The defense stepped it up and did a great job the rest of the first half," Lawhon said. "We were trying to stay low up front and we knew that Flores was dangerous outside. We made sure we had some outside containment players just in case he kept it, and it worked for us."
North Johnston tacked on two more first-half scores to build a 22-7 lead at halftime. Adrian Briscoe (15 rushes, 95 yards) cashed in from 17 and three yards out.
Holloman orchestrated a nine-play, 57-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. The senior quarterback called his own number for the touchdown, a five-yard scamper on first-and-goal.
A fumble set up Flores' 35-yard jaunt, which closed the gap to 29-15. However, the Panthers bounced back to make it 36-15 when Holloman executed the quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal.
Stancil added a 35-yard field goal and senior linebacker Andrew McArtan returned interception -- his second pick of the night -- 70 yards for the game's final score. Defensive mate Andrade Olliver had a fumble hit and recovery, while defensive end Willie Smith sacked Flores once.
North Johnston held the Wildcats to two third-down conversions and didn't allow a fourth-down conversion on three attempts.
"The coaching staff has done a great job teaching techniques and the guys are learning, listening to their area coaches and playing hard," Lawhon said. "But we're not where we want to be."
Still, 4-0 isn't a bad start.
W. Johnston 7 0 0 8 -- 15
N. Johnston 15 7 7 17 -- 46
WJ -- Bryant 2 run (Richardson kick), 11:41
NJ -- Holloman 58 run (Stancil kick), 11:22
NJ -- Briscoe 17 run (Briscoe run), 3:51
NJ -- Briscoe 3 run (Stancil kick), 9:32
NJ -- Holloman 5 run (Stancil kick), 6:33
WJ -- Flores 35 run (Bryant run), 11:36
NJ -- Holloman 1 run (Stancil kick), 7:44
NJ -- Stancil 35 FG, 3:56
NJ -- McArtan 70 interception return (Stancil kick), 3:05
W. Johnston N. Johnston
First downs 11 15
Rushes-yds 34-166 45-243
Passing yds 65 26
Total yards 221 269
Att.-Comp.-Int. 19-5-2 3-2-0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-2
Punts-avg 3-21.3 1-29.0
Penalties-yds 9-59 5-35
RUSHING -- North Johnston -- Adrian Briscoe 15-95, 2 TDs; Brad Holloman 9-90, 2 TDs; J.P. Wise 9-31; Josh Wentz 3-26; Jonathan Britt 8-9; Josh Phillips 1-(-8). West Johnston -- Brian Flores 12-90, TD; Sherrill Bryant 10-51, TD; William Roberts 4-18; Marcus Dorsey 2-6.
PASSING -- North Johnston -- Brad Holloman 2-3-0 26. West Johnston -- Brian Flores 3-12-2 46; Grayson Ferrell 2-7-0 19.
RECEIVING -- North Johnston -- Damien Allen 2-26. West Johnston -- Jeremy Stephenson 2-25; Al Wilson 2-21; Paul Cardenas 1-19.
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