Cavaliers drop nail-biter to North Gaston
It took a furious fourth-quarter rally and a gutsy two-point conversion decision, but North Gaston produced the biggest win in coach Mike Patton’s three-year stint Friday night at Trudak Stadium.
The Wildcats overcame a 14-point deficit and scored the go-ahead conversion with 50 seconds left on a two-point quarterback keeper by Nick Haskin, lifting North Gaston to a dramatic 43-42 win over East Rutherford.
Depsite scoring on six of their nine possessions, including TD plays covering 51, 80 and 56 yards, the Cavaliers (0-2) suffered through a late-game meltdown.
And the frantic finish produced arguably the biggest win for North Gaston since the glory days of A.J. Blue five years ago, leaving the Wildcats with a 2-0 record.
“It was crazy being down two touchdowns with just a few minutes to play,” said Haskin, who scored three times on the night, rushed for 100 yards even, and engineered the game-winning march.
“The hard work is finally paying off after all these years we put in and we put in. I am glad this is how it finally shows on the field.”
Superb execution down the stretch paid off handsomely. After Haskin scored on a 1-yard run with 1:18 left to pull North Gaston to 42-35, the Wildcats recovered an onside kick at the East Rutherford 44.
Twenty-eight seconds later, Brandon Stowe scored on a 5-yard run to cut the deficit to a single point.
And there was no debating the decision to go for two.
“I did not have to think about that much,” Patton said. “I have a lot of confidence in these guys, and I thought we had some momentum. As hard as we were playing, I thought we could score.”
Fullback Josh Kahlig was the workhorse back for North Gaston, rushing 25 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
“This is a testament to the will of our boys,” Patton said. “In the past at North Gaston, big plays were hard to overcome. But they went after it and won the game. They have bought in to what we are doing.”
The game started in shootout mode, with both teams hitting big plays on their first possessions.
After North Gaston’s Quadray Watson intercepted an East Rutherford pass at the Cavaliers’ 48-yard line, Wildcats quarterback Nick Haskin went 48 yards on a read option just 55 seconds into the contest.
However, East Rutherford answered the North Gaston quick strike with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Austin Hollifield to Griffin Stamey at the 8:14 mark of the first quarter.
Hollifield then capped a 75-yard East Rutherford drive with a 1-yard sneak, making the score 14-7.
The first of several ill-timed first half penalties hurt North Gaston later in the opening period. After the Wildcat defense forced a punt attempt, a roughing the kicker penalty kept the East Rutherford possession alive, and the Cavaliers drove 72 yards to push their lead to 21-7.
The big play trend continued in the second quarter when North Gaston’s Raquan Brown returned a kickoff 58 yards to the East Rutherford 32. Fullback Josh Kahlig scored from 1 yard out to pull the Wildcats to 21-14 with 1:38 left in the half
Again, East Rutherford had the answer for North Gaston’s surge in momentum. Kameron Garrison took a handoff at his own 20, bounced to the outside, busted through three would-be tackles and ran down the sideline for a touchdown. The big play came only 24 seconds after the Wildcats trimmed the deficit to seven points.
Trailing by 14, North Gaston appeared to reach the end zone on its last possession of the first half when Brown made a 34-yard over-the-shoulder catch from Haskin. However, the touchdown was negated by an illegal procedure penalty, and North Gaston could not recover.