A Late Surge

Northeastern football overpowers Edenton in second half | w/Video

Northeastern 30 John A. Holmes 14

NHS 3 running an option
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Northeastern's Aaron Harris (with ball) during the football game against Edenton-John A. Holmes, Friday, September 21, 2018 at John A. Holmes High School.

JAHHS 16 running down the sideline
NHS 3 running an option

By David Gough
Sports Writer

Sunday, September 23, 2018

EDENTON — Friday’s game between the two most explosive offenses in the area wasn’t all that explosive.

At least not at first.

Northeastern grinded its way to a 30-14 victory on the road against John A. Holmes, after trailing 14-6 at halftime.

Those 20 combined points in the first 24 minutes led to both schools finishing the game with their lowest point totals of the season and after just one first-half touchdown from the Eagles, coach Antonio Moore had one message for his team at halftime.

“Stop playing soft,” Moore said.

The second half was an entirely different story for Northeastern (4-0). Its offense and defense began to click, especially its power-running game.

Senior running back Traveon Freshwater rushed for 115 second-half yards for a season-high 219 yards on the night, while senior quarterback Aaron Harris added 88 in the final 24 minutes.

Harris, who finished with 141 rushing yards, reached the end zone twice in the second half, but not before teammate Tyquan Mercer broke a tackle or two on his way to a 15-yard score.

Mercer’s touchdown run came on the Eagles’ first offensive drive of the third quarter. Freshwater followed it with a 2-point conversion to tie the Aces at 14-14.

In John A. Holmes’ possessions immediately before and after the game-tying touchdown, the Northeastern defense bent but didn’t break.

Both Edenton drives made it past the Eagles’ 30-yard line, but the Aces (4-1) were unable to convert on fourth downs in either situation. John A. Holmes did not get any closer to the end zone the rest of the way as Northeastern outscored the Aces 24-0 in the second half.

“Our defensive coaches had a great game plan,” Moore said.

Part of that game plan for the Northeastern defense was to find a way to slow down standout Edenton running back Mitjonta Stanley, something no other team had done yet this year. For the most part, they did.

Coming into Friday, the junior’s season-low rushing total for a game was 235. The Eagles allowed him to only 69 yards on 17 carries.

Stanley also suffered a lower leg injury at the beginning of the second half, according to John A. Holmes coach Paul Hoggard who was unsure to what the extent of the injury was when asked after the game.

Although Stanley didn’t find a ton of running room much of the time he touched the football, he was able to break out a 16-yard touchdown run with three minutes to go before halftime. That touchdown gave the Aces their largest lead of the game at 14-6.

That score was at the tail end of what was a great start to the game for the Aces.

After their defense stopped Freshwater on a fourth-and-1 near midfield on the game’s opening drive, the John A. Holmes offense took just three plays to reach the end zone.

Quarterback Kentreaz Coston snuck one in for the opening score, immediately following a 57-yard run by senior Nakevin Hill.

Hill finished with a team-high 79 rushing yards, adding a 16-yard catch and a 30-yard kickoff return to Northeastern territory at the beginning of the second half.

“As far as from a stats standpoint, that was his best night,” Hoggard said. “But as far as what’s not recorded, he’s had good games every game.”

The Aces’ ideal start continued after that touchdown, forcing a punt and then stopping Harris inches short of a fourth-and-9 conversion. Their only blemish defensively in the first half was an Eagles’ touchdown drive at the beginning of the second quarter.

Freshwater accounted for 57 yards on the ground that drive, eventually earning a three-yard score.

“Our kids were ready to play and I felt we had a good game plan going in, both offensively and defensively,” Hoggard said. “When we executed it well, we were able to move the ball and stop them. When we didn’t execute it well, we didn’t. We didn’t execute well enough for four quarters.”

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when Northeastern grabbed its first lead of the game. Harris scored his first of two touchdowns with 9:41 left, sneaking it in for a one-yard score on the play following a crucial John A. Holmes fumble.

The Aces’ fumble came just a couple plays after the Eagles coughed up the ball on a third-and-goal play from the 2-yard line.

Harris later iced the game with another eight-yard touchdown run with 5:20 left in the game. A Mercer conversion topped the score off at 30-14.

“That’s Edenton vs. Northeastern,” Moore said. “They have tough kids just like we have tough kids. That’s what it boils down to. It was a battle in the first half and the second half, we just stopped playing soft and got more physical.”