CLINTON – There are always what can best be described as “Signature” games on each high-school football schedule, and the Topsail High School Black Hats had two of them on their schedule over the last three weeks.
The first didn’t turn out too well as a last-minute mental error by the Pirates’ players on a blocked punt snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a 26-21 loss to East Duplin.
The second came last night (Friday) when Topsail traveled up Highway 40 to Clinton to face an always-formidable foe in the Dark Horses – a team with five state titles under their collective belts – and one who entered last night’s game with a 4-3 record that included an impressive 14-7 win over perennial 1A state contender Wallace-Rose Hill.
But after 48 minutes of tough football, the Clinton players climbed into their cars with their fourth loss of the season, and the Pirates climbed back onto their activity bus for a trip back to Hampstead with what Pirates’ Coach Bryan Davis described as, “One of the best wins in my time at Topsail.”
Senior running back Devin Williams ran for 248 yards on 25 carries – a 9.9 per-carry average – and scored twice, and sophomore quarterback Austin Schoenleber threw for one score and sneaked in for another as Topsail defeated Clinton 28-14 on Friday in a critical East Central 2A Conference football game.
Topsail is now 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference and they are home next week for another important conference game against Croatan, which is also 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference. Both teams have lost to East Duplin and Northside, and both have beaten Clinton – the Cougars by a 14-6 score on Sept. 28 – and third place and the No. 3 seed out of the conference for the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs will be on the line in that game.
Clinton (4-4) is in the running with a 2-2 conference record but the Dark Horses go on the road this coming Friday for a game against East Duplin (7-1, 4-0), and back on the road the following Friday (Oct. 19) for a game at Northside (8-0, 40-0).
Croatan has an away game this week at Topsail, an away game next Friday (Oct. 19) at South Lenoir (1-7, 0-4), and a game at Richlands (3-5, 2-2) on Oct. 26 remaining on their schedule.
Topsail plays host to Croatan this Friday, is at home the following Friday against Richlands, and goes on the road the last week (Oct. 26) of the regular season at Swansboro (3-5, 0-4).
“That was an awesome win, perhaps the best win we’ve had since I’ve been here at Topsail,” Davis said. “They have a legendary history and they have an excellent football team but our kids played a truly outstanding game.”
The Pirates served notice right from the start that they took the 73.07 (146.14 round trip) to Clinton for business, not pleasure, and Williams was the instigator when he bolted 74 yards for an early touchdown. Alex Webster was true on the first of his four extra-point conversions to give the Pirates a 7-0 lead.
An interception set Topsail up again with good field position, and they took full advantage of the opportunity when Schoenleber connected with senior Matt Gilgo on a 35-yad scoring pass for a 14-0 advantage.
It became 21-0 after one quarter when Williams raced in from seven-yards out just prior to the end of the period. The Dark Horses closed to within 21-7 early in the second quarter when Tykerton Stevens blasted into the end zone on a two-yard run, but the Pirates answered quickly when Schoenleber capped a drive off with a one-yard quarterback sneak to restore the Pirates’ 21-point lead at 28-7.
Just before the half the Dark Horses closed to within 14 at 28-14 on a one-yard run by Demonto Bryant but – surprisingly – that would be the last time either team would find the end zone.
“When we started the second half we felt, if we stopped them on their first possession, we’d be in pretty good shape,” Davis said. “We were confident they couldn’t score on us so we toned down the offense and worked harder on the defensive side of the football.”
The action in the always-tough East Central 2A Conference renews on Friday at 7:30 p.m. when the Croatan Cougars come to Hampstead.
“They have two or three really good skill kids, and their quarterback is big and he runs a lot of quarterback power plays. We’ll do some work on that this week but I think we’re in for another tough, physical game.”
Topsail 21- 7-0-0=28
Topsail – Devin Williams 74 run (Alec Webster kick)
Topsail – Matt Gilgo 35 pass from Austin Schoenleber (Alex Webster kick)
Topsail – Devin Williams 15 run (Alec Webster kick)
Clinton – Tykerton Stevens 2 run (Justin Parker kick)
Topsail – Austin Schoenleber 1 run (Alec Webster kick)
Clinton – Demonto Bryant 1 run (Justin Parker kick)
Individual Statistics: Rushing – Topsail: Devin Williams 25-248, Josh Jessup 13-73, Austin Schoenleber 4-30. Clinton: Tykerton Stevens 16-92, Demonto Bryant 9-71, Spencer Jacobs 8-27. Passing – Topsail: Austin Schoenleber 6-10-120. Clinton: Greg Smith 4-13-103. Receiving – Topsail: Hunter Jacobs 1-37, Addison Futrell 1-32, Matt Gilgo 2-51. Clinton: Demonto Bryant 3-54, Chris Royal 1-49. Defense – Topsail: Josh Jessup 15 tackles.