NORTH AUGUSTA -- The game mirrored the weather outside, turbulent and unpredictable, but the Northwestern Trojans came up with a huge road win with a 28-14 win over North Augusta on Friday night.
The Trojans' Jared Neely did just about everything for Northwestern, accounting for two late touchdowns to fend off the Yellow Jackets, who had rallied to tie the game at 14 late in the third period.
After dominating early, North Augusta tied the game with a 7-yard run by quarterback Travis Murphy. The touchdown culminated a 45-yard drive which included a fourth-down conversion on an apparent stop by the Northwestern defense. After a generous spot, the Jackets' retained possession and scored three plays later.
Northwestern's offense stalled again, and all of the momentum shifted towards North Augusta in the waning minutes of the third period. All of that changed when the Trojans' defense forced a fumble and took over on their 44-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the period.
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The Trojans' offense, which had accounted for just one first down in 17 minutes, finally came alive. Will King found a wide-open James Childress over the middle on two consecutive plays to turn the tide back to the Trojans.
King marched the Trojans to North Augusta's 5-yard line, and Northwestern opted to use a timeout to plan a critical third-and-goal. Offensive coordinator Kyle Richardson opened his bag of tricks and called for a halfback pass.
With the defense focused on Neely sweeping to his left, wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson sneaked past the defenders where Neely found him for the easy score in the corner of the end zone.
Trailing by just a touchdown, the Yellow Jackets had one final drive. North Augusta advanced to the Trojans' 9-yard line inside the last three minutes. With lightning in the distance and the crowd going wild, Trojans defensive back Chris Long thwarted the drive with an interception.
Neely answered the bell for the Trojans one last time, icing the game with an 80-yard scamper with 2:29 remaining to complete the amazing night for the junior back.
"This was a great game for both our offense and our defense." said an enthusiastic coach Jimmy Wallace after the win. "We came up with the stops we had to and overcame some mistakes to get the win. Several of our players stepped up to the challenge. They (North Augusta) are a great team, and it feels great to get the win."
The game kicked off 35 minutes later than schedule after a downpour and thunderstorms in the area. Despite the wet playing field, Northwestern's King threw for 107 yards, including starting the game by completing eight of his first nine attempts.
The Trojans had no ill effects because of the delay as lightning struck early for Northwestern. Neely took the opening kickoff and raced 78 yards setting up the Trojans with a first and goal from the two. A holding penalty only delayed the inevitable, as Neely punched it in from the 1-yard line on fourth down.
North Augusta answered with a drive that included a fourth-down conversion. Murphy found Marcus Thurmond for a 29-yard scoring strike, the first score the Trojans' defense allowed in eight quarters.
With both teams scoring touchdowns on their opening possessions, it appeared as though they were headed to another shootout, similar to last season's 61-58, five-overtime thriller. However, both defenses rose to the challenge.
Northwestern used a muffed punt late in the first quarter to add to their lead but struggled offensively through the second and third periods before catching fire again late.
The game was the final tuneup for the Trojans, who open Region 3-AAAA play next week on the road against defending champion Clover.