BENSON — In its Greater Neuse River Conference opener against West Johnston, Knightdale had the answer any time the Wildcats threatened to take control of the game: Nate Harvey.
The senior tailback rushed for 199 yards on 23 carries, including two pivotal touchdowns in the second half to hold off a spirited West Johnston rally for a 24-10 victory.
The Knights took an 18-0 lead in the third quarter on a four-yard touchdown run from Harvey.
But it was after the Wildcats drew to within 18-10 on a Tre Frederick short yardage rushing score when the Knights needed Harvey most.
Up just one possession, Knightdale responded with an eight play, 89-yard drive that was highlighted by a Harvey 50-yard run on third down, a 23-yard pickup on fourth-and-7 and finally another score from four yards out.
“Nate played a great game,” Knightdale coach Robert Senseney said. “He ran the ball hard but that’s also a testament to our offensive line…they did a great job tonight.”
Alex Mattes got the Wildcats on the board with a 34-yard field goal in the third quarter before Frederick ran it in from one yard out after a key 40-yard punt return.
After forcing a three-and-out, West Johnston drove the ball to the Knightdale 10-yard line with a chance to potentially tie the game before failing to convert on fourth down.
“The kids are playing hard,” West Johnston coach Jimmy Williams said. “I believe that if we keep fighting, that good things will happen.
“They’re a scrappy bunch and they never quit and I’m proud of them for that.”
Knightdale jumped out to the lead in the first half with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that featured six runs and five passes and culminated with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Marquavious Johnson to Daquan Lilly in the corner of the end zone.
The Knights’ next scoring drive was a little more direct as Marcell Johnson took the handoff on the jet sweep and went untouched for a 56-yard scamper for the 12-0 lead.
Jarvin Holder threw for 159 yards for West Johnston while his counterpart, Marquavious Johnson, passed for 108 yards.