GARNER - Garner High School football coach Nelson Smith simply couldn't remember everything that happened in the first half of Friday's wild second-round playoff game.
"Everything just happened so fast out there," Smith said. "It's just hard to remember everything. This is one of those games that it's just hard to keep up because it's happening so fast. I'll have to look back on the film to remember what exactly happened."
And he's right - it was fast, and crazy, and breath-taking, and simply unpredictable.
The Trojans got the better of a crazy six touchdown explosion to close the first half and rolled from there to an emphatic 76-34 victory over county-rival Wakefield in the second round of the 4-AA playoffs.
Garner (13-0) will host another Wake County foe, undefeated Leesville Road, (13-0) in the third-round of the playoffs after the Pride dispensed of Apex Middle Creek 37-30.
"I guess I just heard that we've got Leesville Road, it'll be another tough game against another tough team, but that's just how it is this time of year," Smiith said. "We told our guys that we're guaranteed 48 minutes and that's all. We just earned another 48 minutes."
Smith, the head coach of the North Carolina team in this year's Shrine Bowl announced recently that he would be retiring at the end of this season. As his career continues for one more week, another brilliant career came to a close.
Wakefield (11-2) quarterback Connor Mitch concluded his record-setting season with another video-game type performance. The University of South Carolina recruit completed 39 of his 64 pass attempts for a whopping 618 yards and five touchdowns- which aren't even season-highs. Mitch threw for 667 yards and a state-record nine touchdowns earlier in the season against Broughton.
But it's the three passes that he didn't complete to Wolverine teammates that loomed large in the loss.
Mitch threw three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns during the final two minutes of the first half. The first was after a miscommunication with a receiver, and Garner defensive back Raekwon Britton snagged the pass that was thrown right at him and scampered 17 yards for the easy touchdown with 1:55 to play in the half.
The Wolverines tried to cut in to Garner's 42-21 lead after the pick-six, and the Trojans made them pay again.
Two-way player Raevon Smith broke late on an out route on the sidelines, snatched the ball away from a Wolverine receiver and raced 55-yards for what appeared to be a back-breaking interception return for a touchdown with just eight seconds remaining in the half.
But there were still points to be scored before intermission.
The Trojans were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct as the team ran on the field to celebrate to score, and a long kickoff return and a facemask penalty set the Wolverines up for one play at the Trojans' 27-yard line. Mitch took the shotgun snap, ducked under a rusher, slid out of the pocket and rifled a pass towards the back of the endzone that was hauled in by receiver Mike Shelton as time expired in the opening half.
Garner went into halftime with a 49-28 lead nearly an hour-and-a-half after the opening kickoff.
The Trojans used its ground game to slow the tempo in the second half and pulled away for the comfortable win.
Raevon Smith had a monster night for the Trojans, finishing with five touchdowns total, including three rushing to go along with his pick-six of Mitch. The senior racked up 177 yards on 20 carries and a 46-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Vince Jefferies with 38 seconds to play in the first half.
It was over when...Jefferies hooked up with receiver Armani Lanier for a 32-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. Wakefield's offense is potent, but Garner's 62-28 at the point was just too much for even Mitch to overcome. The Wolverines scored the next time they touched the ball, but were never able to mount a fourth-quarter comeback.
Turning point No. 1 - Wakefield took an early 14-7 advantage and appeared poised to stretch its lead to to two possessions after Jefferies' ill-advised throw into double coverage was picked off by Shelton. Two plays later, the Wolverines gave the turnover right back when Mitch's pass late across the middle was intercepted by Lanier and returned inside the Wakefield 6-yard line. Raevon Smith punched in the game-tying score one play later - and it was game on.
Turning point No. 2 - Garner was leading 21-14 early in the second quarter when Mitch took a deep shot down the field on a Third-and-2 that appeared to pay off with points. His top target, Jordan Fielleteau got behind the Trojans' coverage and Mitch dropped a beautiful pass right in his hands. The North Carolina recruit was going to score easily but appeared to slow down, almost jogging in as he reached the 10-yard line and was caught from behind by defensive back Nyheim Hines. Hines stripped the ball out of Fielleteau's hands and the Trojans recovered at the 1-yard line.
Garner then marched on a 16-play, 99-yard scoring drive that ended with Raevon Smith's third rushing score of the game.
That 14-point swing proved huge in the outcome.
Fielleteau hauled in 16 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown, but will probably be remembered in this game for the play he didn't finish.
Garner 76, Wakefield 34
Wakefield 14 14 00 06 34
Garner 14 35 07 20 76
GARNER - Raevon Smith 54 run (Kenneth Perkinson kick) 10:15
WAKEFIELD - Chris Ballen 74 pass from Connor Mitch (kick failed) 9:54
WAKEFIELD - Quinton Bridges 32 pass from Mitch (Jordan Fielleteau pass from Mitch) 4:57
GARNER - Smith 6 run (Perkinson kick) 3:02
GARNER - Tyler Hinton 2 run (Perkinson kick) 11:55
GARNER - Smith 4 run (Perkinson kick) 4:30
WAKEFIELD - Fielleteau 67 pass from Mitch (Joe Bandoni kick) 3:04
GARNER - Raekwon Britton 17 interception return (Perkinson kick) 1:55
GARNER - Smith 46 pass from Vince Jefferies (Perkinson kick) 38.3
GARNER - Smith 55 interception return (Perkinson kick) 8.0
WAKEFIELD - Mike Shelton 27 pass from Mitch (Bandoni kick) 0.0
GARNER - Nyheim Hines 48 run (Perkinson kick) 6:25
GARNER - Armani Lanier 32 pass from Jefferies (kick blocked) 11:53
WAKEFIELD - Kelton Whitehead 26 pass from Mitch (pass failed) 9:58
GARNER - Hinton 1 run (Perkinson kick) 6:23
GARNER - Hinton 14 run (Perkinson kick) 2:13
Wakefield - Connor Mitch 39-64-3 618 yards 5TDs
Garner - Vince Jefferies 9-17-2 206 yards 2TDs
Wakefield - Kelton Whitehead 8-6, Connor Mitch 10-(-33)
Garner - Raevon Smith 20-177, Nyheim Hines 11-108, Tyler Hinton 11-35, Vince Jefferies 4-16
Wakefield - Jordan Fielleteau 16-287, Wesley Neal 4-22, Kelton Whitehead 7-89, Chris Ballen 7-142, David Chavis 1-(-1), Quinton Bridges 2-51, Tommy Evans 1-6, Mike Shelton 1-27