Hobbton couldn’t have delivered a more exciting start to The Daily Record football season.
The Wildcats came back from down 14 at halftime to beat East Chapel Hill 51-46 in their season opener in Newton Grove on Thursday.
“They’re a tough bunch,” said Hobbton coach Joe Salas. “They worked their tails off and they never surrendered. We were confident all the way through, and we knew we just needed one stop.”
Leading the charge was senior quarterback Grayson Rogers, who made big plays on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Rogers completed 23-of-31 passes (74.2 percent) for 165 yards and a touchdown, ran for 209 yards and six touchdowns on 33 carries (6.3 yards per carry), including the game-winning score with 1:27 left in the game, and scored a 2-point conversion for good measure. And defensively, he had a tackle for loss and two interceptions, both of which led to go-ahead touchdowns.
“My senior year, last year walking on the field,” Rogers said. “It’s unbelievable. Can’t ask for a better win.”
Running back Dacorris Morrison was also a big leader on Hobbton’s offense. The senior workhorse ran for 218 yards on 33 carries (6.6 yards per carry) and scored two 2-point conversions. He also had three catches for six yards.
Senior wide receiver Brayden Herring was Rogers’ top target, racking up 100 yards on 12 receptions (8.3 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Daniel Britt added six catches for 39 yards (6.5 yards per catch). Nathaniel McLamb had one catch for 13 yards and Preston Daughtry had one catch for seven yards.
Defensively, Hobbton created four takeaways, all in the second half. In addition to Rogers’ two interceptions, Kelvin Stevens and Carlos Aguilar each recovered a fumble.
Hobbton’s defense started the game off strong, forcing East Chapel Hill into a three-and-out on the opening possession. Rogers led Hobbton all the way to the goal line before fumbling at the goal line. The turnover led to an opening score for the visiting Wildcats.
Rogers responded by leading a 53-yard drive, capped off with his first rushing TD of the game on a one-yard run to tie it up at 7-7.
East Chapel Hill responded with back-to-back touchdowns in a two-minute stretch to go up 20-7. Both teams exchanged touchdown drives, and then Hobbton scored on a 16-yard pass from Rogers to Herring to cut the deficit to 27-20 with just 32 seconds left in the half. It seemed all the momentum was with the home team, but on the very next play East Chapel Hill returned the kickoff for a touchdown, making it 34-20 at the break.
Hobbton received the ball to start the second half and scored in less than two minutes to make it 34-28. But after a good return, East Chapel Hill only needed two plays to answer back with a 43-yard passing touchdown to go up 40-28 with 9:14 in the third quarter.
Still, Hobbton battled back. Rogers orchestrated another scoring drive and scored a two-point conversion to trim the deficit to 40-36. And then, on the ensuing possession, Rogers subbed in at free safety and made a diving catch to pick off a pass at his own eight-yard line. Rogers then put together a 92-yard scoring drive, capping it off with a 16-yard scamper to give Hobbton its first lead of the game at 43-40 with 11:50 to go in the game.
East Chapel Hill answered less than a minute later with a touchdown to retake the lead 46-43.
On the ensuing drive, Hobbton got the ball all the way to the one-yard line. On third and goal, the snap was fumbled back and Rogers looked to be injured. He came out and East Chapel Hill picked off a pass on fourth down.
Stevens recovered a fumble to keep Hobbton alive, but a stalled drive meant the hometown defense would have to come up with another big play.
Enter Grayson Rogers. As East Chapel Hill elected to air it out with less than four minutes left, senior defensive end Rhanique Corbett got enough pressure on the quarterback to force a bad throw. Rogers picked it off and ran it back to the East Chapel Hill 24-yard line.
Rogers took a quick breather on the sideline and Morrison stepped in as a wildcat quarterback, rushing for 18 yards on four carries. Then, Rogers capped it off with a 6-yard score. Morrison added the 2-point conversion to make it 51-46 with 1:27 to play.
Hobbton elected to go for an onside kick, denying East Chapel Hill a chance to score another kick return. The visiting Wildcats recovered and marched down into the red zone, but with less than 20 seconds left, senior defensive back Josh Royal forced a fumble and Aguilar recovered, allowing Rogers to take the final knee to seal the win.
“It was a tough battle,” an exasperated Rogers said with a small drop of blood on his nose. “We fought to the end and we gave it our all.”
Hobbton will travel to Louisburg next week. Improving their tackling will certainly be a point of emphasis in next week’s preparation.
“We’ve got to correct those 5,000 mistakes we made out there,” Salas said. “We’ll feel a lot better when we start playing schools our size (Hobbton is a 1A school and East Chapel Hill is 3A), and that’s what we’ve got the next couple of weeks.”