10/02/05 — Warriors grind out victory over Hawks

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Warriors grind out victory over Hawks

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on October 2, 2005 2:18 AM

LaGRANGE -- What started out as one of Al Graham's worst games turned out to be one of his best.

After getting just four yards on three carries in the first half, Eastern Wayne's bruising fullback finished with a game-high 153 yards as the Warriors got past North Lenoir on Friday night, 33-21.

Kendrick Best added 124 yards and a touchdown as the Warriors improved to 4-1-1 with the victory. The Hawks slipped to 1-5 with the losss.

North Lenoir took a 14-13 lead -- its first of the night -- when Eric Whitfield returned the opening kickoff of the second half 95 yards for a touchdown. The Hawks special teams unit then pinned Eastern Wayne at its own 3.

But Eastern Wayne marched 97 yards -- all on the ground -- to take back the lead for good as tailback Andrew Blevins capped off the drive with a 13-yard run.

Warriors quarterback Tyler Ham found wideout Clint Rouse later in the third quarter for a 13-yard scoring strike to expand the Eastern Wayne advantage to 27-14. Graham broke off a 44-yard run during the drive to set up the score.

"Coach (Jeff Price) busted our chops at halftime," Graham said. "After they got that touchdown off the kickoff and took the lead, we wanted to establish the run and get some momentum -- and we did."

"(Graham is) not an open-field runner, but he can explode off the ball and he did that in the second half," Price said. "In the second half, Al stepped up, the line stepped up and our defense came through big."

The Hawks, however, cut the Warriors' lead to 27-21 with 7:14 to play when fullback Tyrone Spencer bulled his way in from 7 yards out. But Eastern Wayne responded with a 79-yard scoring drive capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by Ham to put the game out of reach.

"We were in a good position at the beginning of the third quarter," North Lenoir coach Wayne Jackson said. "But they broke some plays on us and we couldn't find any answers."

Eastern Wayne finished with 397 yards on the ground and 521 yards of total offense. Ham added 67 yards rushing and two TDs and was 5-of-11 passing for 124 yards and a touchdown.

"I think I was able to do what I did because of our line and because of Al," Ham said. "I'm sure they watched us on film and they were expecting Al Graham and that got me open for some big runs and passes."

Best opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Ham made the score 13-0 in the second period with a 1-yard run after a 66-yard completion to Rouse put the Warriors at the North Lenoir 1.

Whitfield finished with a team-high 108 rushing yards for North Lenoir and broke off a 55-yard touchdown run late in the first half. The Hawks finished with 181 rushing yards and 220 overall.

Notes: After missing considerable time due to injury, North Lenoir quarterback Andrew Manning came off the bench and finished 3-for-12 passing for 39 yards. He was 0-for-5 going into the fourth quarter, but completed three of his next five passes. ... Eastern Wayne will open conference play this Friday as the Warriors travel to play Southern Wayne. "We're happy to be 4-1-1, but we've got a long row to hoe," Price said. "It's not going to get any easier." North Lenior opens conference play the same night with a home game against Farmville Central. ... Eastern Wayne's first score was set up when North Lenoir fumbled trying to catch a punt at the Hawks' 13. Best scored on the next play. ... Eastern Wayne punter Riley Wilkins had a 52-yard punt and a 36.8 average on four punts -- and didn't punt in the second half.