Jamario Holley was untouchable Thursday night and that helped Northwestern prolong its football season another week.
The South Carolina-committed senior scored a hat-trick of touchdowns in the first half and finished the game with five scores and 265 yards. His play helped the Trojans hold off Boiling Springs 54-35, setting up a game next week against the winner of T.L. Hanna-Spartanburg.
“He’s had the pressure on his shoulders but we’ve just been saying ‘relax, go have fun,” said Northwestern coach James Martin. “It’s just a football game, don’t carry the whole world on your shoulders.”
The first quarter was, well, weird. Holley returned the opening kickoff through a yawning hole 94 yards for a touchdown, but the hosts’ excitement didn’t last long. Caden Peeler took the Trojans’ kickoff 90 yards the other direction for a touchdown, only to miss the extra point.
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“We’ve been practicing kick return and they said there would be a hole,” Holley said. “Went in there, executed like we did, touchdown.”
Holley scored for the second time, getting behind the Bulldog secondary for a 68-yard TD connection to make it 14-6. The Trojans tried to grow their lead but after a pass completion, fumbled. The football landed in the arms of a Boiling Springs linebacker and he raced the other direction, only to cough up the rock around the Trojans’ 10-yard line. The loose squirted into the end zone and -- after the refs initially signaled a touchdown -- was ruled a touchback and Northwestern’s ball.
The Trojans scored soon enough, though, a fantastic Nick Acus punt pinning Boiling Springs at its 4-yard line early in the second quarter. Northwestern sent much of its defense after Bulldog QB Aaron Thomas several plays later and he fumbled, Ty Burris recovering for the Trojans. Holley scored his third TD of the half on a 1-yard run to make it 21-12.
The visitors scored the last 10 points of the half. Tanner Robbins smashed a 40-yard field goal through the yellow pipes and the Bulldogs took the lead with 53 seconds left on a screen pass to Trey Miller. He followed blockers 47 yards for a touchdown and a 22-21 lead, after Robbins’ extra point.
Leading 22-21, Boiling Springs got the ball first in the second half. But Northwestern’s defense forced three-and-outs on the Bulldogs’ first three possessions, while the Trojans scored on their first play of the second half with a 53-yard TD toss to Holley. After another stop, Northwestern scored again, Antonio Heath pounding into the end zone from seven yards to make it 34-22.
“We didn’t have very good possessions right there in a row, that was big, no doubt,” said Boiling Springs coach Rick Tate.
The wind was whipping when the two teams came out and Boiling Springs had to confront that in the third quarter. It didn’t go well. The Bulldogs finished 2-of-13 on third down, including three straight third down fails early in the third quarter when the Trojans scored 14 straight points to grab the lead.
“It was a huge momentum swing, having that wind blowing the way it was swirling,” said Martin.
Holley was phenomenal, showing the kind of dominant form that leaves college coaches drooling.
“My head was on straight all day,” he said.
But he had plenty of help on offense from Heath, who finished with 160 total yards and two touchdowns. Ghari Page ran for 95 yards.
Charles McFadden ran for 101 yards and two scores to lead the visitors.
Boiling Springs;12;10;6;7 - 35
Northwestern;14;7;13;20 - 54
NHS -- Jamario Holley 94 kick return (Nick Acus kick), 11:45
BSHS -- Caden Peeler 90 kick return (kick blocked), 11:31
NHS -- Holley 68 pass from Dustin Noller (Acus kick), 2:20
BSHS -- Charles McFadden 3 run (2-point pass failed), 0:10
NHS -- Holley 1 run (Acus kick), 8:49
BSHS -- Tanner Robbins 40-yard field goal, 7:27
BSHS -- Trey Miller 47 pass from Aaron Thomas (Robbins kick), 0:53
NHS -- Holley 53 pass from Noller (2-point pass failed), 10:15
NHS -- Antonio Heath 7 run (Acus kick), 7:13
NSHS -- McFadden 79 run (kick failed), 4:00
NHS -- Holley 4 run (2-point pass failed), 9:37
NHS -- Heath 31 run (Acus kick), 5:29
BSHS -- Thomas 7 run (Robbins kick), 4:36
NHS -- Marquez Cherry 1 run (Acus kick), 1:28
RUSHING BSHS: Charles McFadden 7-101, Trey Miller 14-90, Aaron Thomas 9-25; Kentavious Epps 1-4. NHS: Ghari Page 11-95, Antonio Heath 12-68, Marquez Cherry 5-49, Jamario Holley 3-9, Dustin Noller 6-7.
PASSING BSHS: Thomas 14-34-0, 146 yards; Trayson Fowler 1-1, 17 yards. NHS: Noller 21-32-0, 352 yards.
RECEIVING BSHS: Chance Guest 7-54, Miller 2-48, Davis Brown 2-25, Caden Peeler 2-18, Logan Billings 1-17, McFadden 1-1. NHS: Heat 7-92, Holley 6-162, Ger-Cari Caldwell 4-57, Jamaar Moore 2-25, Carson DePass 2-17.
RECORDS Boiling Springs (5-6); Northwestern (4-6)