Eastern – Williams Football
Feb. 25, 2021
“Big Cats” Take Advantage of Williams Turnovers in 14-8 Victory
BURLINGTON – A little pep talk at the right time can make all the difference.
Such was the case Friday night as Eastern Guilford secured a season-opening 14-8 football victory on the road against Williams.
During halftime of Friday’s contest, Eastern Guilford Offensive Line Coach Brad Melton challenged his experienced linemen to secure the win for the Wildcats.
Melton’s instructions: “Let’s take control of the game, and let’s feed 20.”
The 20 that Melton referred to was senior running back Hezekia Newby. Down 8-6 at halftime, the Wildcats decided to put the ball in Newby’s hands for much of the second half.
The result: Newby carried the ball 17 times for 181 yards in the second half, including a 31-yard touchdown run that proved to the game-winner. Newby finished the night with 204 yards on 24 carries.
“Our offensive line made the difference,” Eastern head coach Tony Aguilar said. “Our ‘big cats’ up front – we leaned heavily on them tonight.”
The game-winning score came with 4:42 to play in the game, as Newby blasted through a giant hole in the line and outran the defenders to the end zone. He then added a two-point conversion, surging across the goal line on a powerful second effort.
The score capped a four-play, 43-yard drive that began when two Wildcat defenders pounced on one of three Bulldog fumbles. In all, Williams turned the ball over on three fumbles and one interception.
“It was obvious that we were rusty,” Williams coach Jim McGill admitted. “At the same time, I am extremely proud of our effort. The effort was there. We were just one or two plays away from coming away with a win over a very good football team.”
Down 14-8, Williams had several opportunities in the final 4:42 and the Bulldog offense moved as close as the Wildcat 11-yard line. A penalty for an ineligible man downfield negated what appeared to be a touchdown. Williams’ final attempted failed when Eastern’s Marcus Bynum intercepted a Fussell pass in the endzone with 2:03 to play.
Eastern Guilford opened the night’s scoring early after Williams fumbled away the game’s opening kickoff. Five plays later Newby scored the first of his two touchdowns from one yard away. The point-after-touchdown attempt was blocked, leaving the Wildcats up 6-0.
Both teams struggled to put together long drives throughout much of the first half. On the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second quarter, McGill changed two key offensive skill positions – subbing in junior quarterback Mitch McClendon for senior Coult Fussell and subbing junior running back Isaiah McCambry for junior Alijah Richmond.
The changes sparked the offense, and the Bulldogs pieced together their only scoring drive of the night. The drive included a fourth-down conversion run by McCambry, and a 32-yard scoring pass from McClendon to Kendrel Briggs.
On the touchdown, Briggs outjumped two Wildcat defenders in the endzone. McCambry then scored the two-point conversion to give Williams an 8-6 lead.
“Both teams fought hard,” Eastern’s Aguilar said. “…Everybody knows I like to throw the ball, but tonight we needed to rely on our ground game.”
Aguilar said limited practice time by several of his skill players, including quarterback Kamell Smith, affected the ability for his offense to be effective with the pass. Smith was one of six Wildcats who played on the Eastern basketball team. That team lost its first-round state playoff game on Tuesday.
For the night, Smith completed seven of 15 passes for 77 yards.
Eastern was also slowed by six penalties for 65 yards.
Richmond led Williams’ rushing attack, carrying the ball 12 times for 63 yards; however, he only carried the ball four times in the second half as he nursed an injured hamstring.
McClendon completed three of his five passes for 73 yards. Fellow QB Fussell completed five of 11 for 82 yards. Fussell also threw an interception.
Eastern Guilford 6 0 0 8 - 14
Williams 0 8 0 0 - 8
Other area final scores:
Western Alamance 45, Rockingham 14
Union Pine 47, Cummings 20