11/23/13 — James Kenan holds off Princeton

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James Kenan holds off Princeton

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 23, 2013 11:43 PM


WARSAW -- What was billed as a rematch between conference rivals turned into an instant classic at Bill Taylor Field.

James Kenan overcame five turnovers and held off Princeton in a 43-36 shootout on Friday night in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA playoffs.

James Kenan (12-0 overall) will host Whiteville next week.

"That is not the kind of game I want to play as a coach," James Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. said. "I like the pace to be a little slower so I can keep everything in front of me. Tonight it became a scoring frenzy in the first half."

The two premier tailbacks in the game each scored a first-quarter touchdown. Tiger standout, and N.C. State-commit, Marcelias Sutton raced in from three yards out. Johnny Frasier immediately answered with a 10-yard score to tie the game at 7-7 after one quarter.

That is when the craziness began.

T.J. Fullwood gave James Kenan the lead when he hauled-in a 28-yard pass from Dominique Barnes. Frasier capped the ensuing Princeton drive with a 30-yard scoring scamper and tied the game at 14-14. On the next play from scrimmage, Barnes and Fullwood connected for a second time for a 70-yard touchdown.

After a failed Princeton possession, Barnes pushed the Tigers ahead 28-14 with a one-yard plunge. Sutton added his second touchdown two minutes later and it appeared the contest may be getting out of reach for the visitors. With three minutes to play in the first half James Kenan's lead was 35-14.

Following a short kickoff Frasier broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run that reignited the Bulldogs. Al Owens answered with 44 seconds left in the half for James Kenan with a 10-yard touchdown run. Not to be outdone, Frasier responded again with a 66-yard scoring run to end the half.

When the smoke cleared James Kenan held a 41-30 lead at the intermission.

"Our kids could have put their heads down when we got behind early but they didn't," Princeton head coach Derrick Minor said. "They battled back and had chances in the second half to win the ballgame. I think we opened a lot of peoples eyes tonight that Princeton is for real."

Adrian Whack capped a long scoring drive for the Bulldogs with a three-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter that cut the deficit to 41-36. Each team desperately tried to make defensive adjustments on the sidelines and those adjustments began to pay off as the second half wore on. Princeton held James Kenan's ground game in check and conversely the Tigers made throwing the ball nearly impossible.

A bad punt snap led to a Princeton safety in the fourth quarter and capped the scoring at 43-36 in the Tigers' favor. Princeton had a chance to tie the game with less than two minutes to play, but a holding penalty negated a Frasier touchdown and forced the Bulldogs to attempt a final heave on 4th-and-22 that fell incomplete.

Two kneels by Barnes and the Tigers were left to celebrate.

"Every kid on the field tonight on both sides really played their hearts out," Avent Jr. said. "I am proud of my guys for not getting down when we turned the ball over. Normally five turnovers in the playoffs leads to a loss."

Owens led James Kenan with 110 yards on 16 carries. Sutton added 76 yards and two touchdowns on 14 totes. Barnes finished with 165 yards passing and two scores.

Frasier tallied 285 yards and four touchdowns on 22 runs. Princeton (9-4 overall) finished with 358 yards rushing as a team. Frasier finished his junior season with 3,039 yards and 45 touchdowns.

"That's the great thing about this team, we have nine starters coming back on offense," Minor said. "I think the future is very bright at Princeton and hopefully we can take what we learned this year and use it next year."