James Kenan outlasts Union
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 10, 2012 11:35 PM
WARSAW -- The same characteristics that describe a successful assassin also often describe a successful football team.
Intelligence, emotional balance and stone-cold efficiency.
James Kenan displayed all of those traits in a near-perfect second half on Friday night. The Tigers overcame an early deficit and rolled past Union High School 28-14 in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA (large-school) state playoffs.
James Kenan (12-0 overall) plays host to Red Springs next week.
"That second half I thought we played really well and we controlled the pace of the game," James Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. said. "Our kids new Union was going to be a test, having played them in the regular season, and I think we came out ready to battle."
The Tigers got on the scoreboard first when Ja'Quan Williams broke a 14-yard run on the final play of the first quarter. Max Hernandez' extra point made the score 7-0.
The rest of the first half belonged to the Spartans.
Quarterback Alfredo Garcia hit Natrone Banks with a 43-yard touchdown strike on the ensuing Union possession to tie the game. After a James Kenan drive stalled at midfield, the Spartans got the ball back in the shadows of their own goal post. Dezmond Faison wasted no time flipping the field position by breaking a 93-yard scoring run.
"That one big play kind of got us on our heels," Avent Jr. said. "They had all the momentum and I knew that if we let them score again before halftime we would be in real trouble."
Then mayhem broke loose at Bill Taylor Field.
Garcia, who also serves as the Spartans' kicker, rolled an onside kick into the Tigers' front line of defense. The ball popped free and Garcia recovered and began to run upfield. Following a hit by a James Kenan defender the ball came free again and was picked up by a Tiger at midfield and returned to the Union 40-yard line.
The ball was spotted and the Tiger offense got to the line of scrimmage as the Union sideline protested. The officials stopped play and held a 25-minute conference, which included heated arguments with both head coaches, before deciding to give Union the ball back at the original spot of Garcia's recovery.
By rule, as soon as the kicking team recovers the ball the play is dead. The kicking team may not advance the ball, so Garcia's eventual fumble never happened and the Spartans got the ball back by technicality.
"I have never seen anything like that," Avent Jr. said. "Whether it was the correct call or not was kind of beside the point. We just wanted to spot the ball and get back to playing."
After a seven-play drive stalled, Garcia attempted a 33-yard field goal but missed wide right. The Union lead remained 14-7 until the intermission, but the Spartans' momentum had fizzled out.
James Kenan dominated the second half.
The Tigers took the ball 67 yards on 11 plays on the opening drive of the third quarter and tied the game on Marcelias Sutton's four-yard touchdown run. After a Union three-and-out series, Williams broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run that put the Tigers ahead for good.
Williams added a final touchdown early in the fourth quarter and put the game out of reach at 28-14.
"We were very efficient on offense all night really," Avent Jr. said. "In the first half we didn't have the ball enough to really make any ground. In the second half we did a better job at the line of scrimmage and we got our backs running downhill."
Sutton led the Tigers with 176 yards on 24 carries. Williams added 148 on 14 totes. T.K. Owens tallied 65 yards on 11 carries -- all in the second half.
James Kenan finished with 384 yards of total offense -- all on the ground.
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