Northwestern quarterback Will King is learning a valuable lesson -- when the running game's stifled and the Trojans need a big first down, throw to Cordarelle Patterson.
Patterson might have entrenched himself as King's favorite target Friday, catching seven passes for 203 yards and a touchdown as the Trojans stayed on top of Region 3-AAAA with a 34-14 win over Lancaster. The big junior helped take the pressure off tailback Jared Neely, who was mostly stuffed by an aggressive Bruins defense, and helped turn the game into an air show for both teams.
"We hang out all the time," Patterson said, describing his and King's relationship. "We go jet-skiing, go out to eat, everything."
Patterson got the Trojans (5-1, 2-0 Region 3-AAAA) on the board first, after King had to rely on his arm to move downfield. Standing on the 50-yard-line and Neely getting wrapped at the line, King hurled a fade down the left sideline for the streaking Patterson.
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Locked into single coverage, Patterson eyed the arching spiral and caught it on his outside shoulder. His feet planted one way to stay in bounds, his shoulders went the opposite direction to spin around the defender and suddenly, Patterson was blasting to the end zone for a 50-yard score.
"Cordarelle Patterson set the stage tonight, no doubt," Northwestern coach Jimmy Wallace said. "He played well."
Patterson also played a huge part in the Trojans' next touchdown, after Lancaster (2-4, 0-2) went for it on fourth-and-goal from the Trojans' 9, only to have Taniel Massey throw incomplete to the end zone. King bombed into double coverage on the first play, where Patterson hauled it in through four outstretched arms for a 36-yard gain.
Two plays later, Patterson caught a 14-yard pass and and Northwestern was on the move. King hit Neely with a short screen and Neely fumbled, the ball bouncing right to Patterson for another 5 yards.
The Trojans made it count when Neely completed the 91-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring burst. Then when the Bruins marched to the end zone for a touchdown with only 37 seconds to go before halftime, cutting the score to 13-7, King and Patterson only needed three plays and 13 seconds to score again.
King spied the open left sideline and hit Patterson for 19 yards. Then he hit Patterson in the flat for 7 yards on the very next play.
"No sir," Patterson replied, saying Friday wasn't his breakout game. "I can do better."
Lancaster wised up and started double-covering Patterson, leaving King free to nail Neely in the middle of the field. Neely caught it, ricocheted off his defender and sprinted 29 yards for a touchdown and a 19-7 halftime lead.
"(Patterson) and Labris (Adams) are big tall guys who can jump," said King, who posted 237 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-25 passes, also running for a score. "I just try to throw it up and trust them to get them."
After the half, Massey never giving up on the Bruins' chance for the upset, Lancaster notched a quick touchdown and cut the score to 19-14. But after the Trojans forced a Lancaster punt, the snap sailed over Garrett Faulkenberry's head and Faulkenberry kicked it out of the end zone.
Northwestern got two points on the safety and forced another Lancaster punt.
Then King came out, hit Patterson again with a 45-yard toss and watched Wallace open the playbook.
Wallace signaled for a trick play and King ran it perfectly, lateraling to Julian Patton. Patton stepped back and launched deep for Neely, who caught it for another touchdown.
The Bruins, despite 234 yards from Massey and a never-say-die spirit, were too far gone to recover, especially after King found a hole and ripped off a 68-yard touchdown run.
"(Massey)'s a player," Wallace said, also crediting Bruins workhorses Jamais Clark and Eric Buchanan. "We'll take it, but we got to play better."