RALEIGH — The Zebulon Middle School football team defeated the East Wake Middle School Warriors, 30-20, with the Northern Conference title on the line on Wednesday.
Zebulon (8-0) notched its third straight undefeated season and claimed its third straight league title with the win. A win for East Wake (5-2) would have broken a tie with Zebulon in their division of the conference and crowned the Warriors champions.
“It was a good one,” East Wake coach William Scarborough said of the game. “We had (the Cougars) going, there for a while.”
Cougars head coach Mike Murray has led Zebulon to a conference title five out of the last eight years. His teams have never posted a record worse than 6-2 in his nine years on the job, but he said this season presented significant challenges.
“There were three or four games we could have lost,” Murray said. “Wendell and Wake Forest had a lot of talent. We just kind of wore teams down in the fourth quarter, persevered and kept on fighting.”
Zebulon’s offensive standout Trey Holden didn’t disappoint Wednesday, scoring three times and adding a pair of 2-point conversions. The tailback finished the season with 1,144 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns – 18 rushing, two receiving and two passing.
The two teams were tied at 14 at the start of the second half, when East Wake was driving, but things changed quickly after Zebulon’s Winston Johnson intercepted a pass and returned it 30 yards. Holden made the play count with a 40-yard rushing score and added a conversion for the 22-14 lead.
Holden gave the Cougars their final points and a 30-14 lead early in the fourth quarter after running for a 4-yard touchdown and his second conversion.
East Wake got a 5-yard scoring run from Daniel Anderson with 25 seconds left in the game, but the conversion failed. The Warriors attempted an onside kick, but Zebulon secured the ball and the win.
The Warriors’ first onside kick attempt – the first play of the game – was successful and set up a 30-yard Anderson touchdown run and conversion for the 8-0 lead.
Zebulon responded later in the first quarter with Holden’s first score, a 9-yard dash. The conversion failed, leaving East Wake up 8-6 at the end of the opening quarter.
Khari Stallings’ 60-yard touchdown pass to Drew Tuazama put East Wake up 14-6 in the second quarter.
The Cougars tied the game with 25 seconds left in the first half on a 10-yard pass from Devin Worley to James Simon and conversion run by Caurnel Pemberton.
Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews