RALEIGH — Knightdale survived a late surge by host Sanderson for a 21-13 season-opening win Friday night.
Both teams shook off some opening game jitters and several turnovers, but the Knights’ Unique Jennings’ late interception of Matt Koehler at the Knightdale 15-yard line helped seal the victory.
“I felt we were out-schemed and out-played,” Knightdale head coach Rob Senseney said. “But our team didn’t fold and fall by the wayside.”
Knightdale scored on its opening drive with a 20-yard touchdown reception by Daquan Lilly from Marquavious Johnson.
Johnson lofted a pass to Lilly for the early score. The play was set up by a 28-yard run by Johnson on third down.
Sanderson answered in the closing seconds of the first quarter on Koehler’s 24-yard touchdown run. Grayson Gregory’s extra point made it 7-7.
Knightdale responded on the ensuing possession. Johnson’s 3-yard touchdown run capped a 15-play, 65-yard drive. The Knights sustained the drive on a fourth-and-four at the Sanderson 21-yard line with a 10-yard Johnson run to take a 14-7 lead into the half.
Sanderson came out in the second half with better defense and an opened air attack, but was plagued with drive-killing turnovers. The Spartans suffered four turnovers in the second half, two inside the Knight’s 20-yard line.
Koehler was 8-for-13 in the second half for 126 yards and a touchdown.
“We did a good job of shutting down the running game but they moved it through the air against us,” Senseney said.
Koehler connected with freshman Bryson Powers in the third quarter for a touchdown, but the Knight’s blocked the extra-point to preserve a 14-13 lead.
Knightdale struggled on offense but the defense rebounded.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Koehler lateralled to Powers but the pass sailed too high. Chris Malone scooped up the ball at the Spartans 30-yard line and ran it in for the score.
Sanderson rallied for one last chance in first-year Sanderson coach Ben Kolstad’s first game leading the program, but Jennings’interception sealed the victory for Knightdale.
“The kids battled. I’ll never take that away from them,” Senseney said. “But in games like these we want to assert our will,” Senseney added.