By JOHN LUCAS
For The Record
Overhills’ football season came to a close Friday, as the No. 5 Jaguars were edged 20-18 by visiting No. 12 Knightdale in the first round of the NCHSAA 4-A state playoffs.
“I’m not using this as an excuse, but we didn’t practice much this week, because of the rain,” said Overhills coach Mark Kirk. “We were in the gym for three of the four days. You just don’t get rhythm in the gym. You don’t get to throw the ball downfield. Not using that as an excuse. I take my hat off to Knightdale. They played well. They were a lot stronger up front than we expected and they did some nice things with the option play and option passes. They had a nice game plan. That’s a tough one to swallow. There were a couple of times when we needed to make plays and we didn’t get it done.
“Our biggest thing was we never got in rhythm.”
Senior Trevor Inniss ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and had a 10-yard reception to lead the Jaguars (8-4).
“This is my 40th year of coaching and I rank Trevor one of the top three backs I’ve ever coached,” Kirk said. “He’s elusive, he’s strong, he’s a quality kid. He’s the kind of kid you’d want your daughter to go out with. He’s a great kid. He’s great academically. He’s a leader at the school. He’s a quiet leader. He does everything you want him to do.”
Autavion Bell was 5-of-14 passing for 64 yards, with one interception, and ran for 15 yards on nine carries. Jai Irvin had two receptions for 76 yards. Latrell Lloyd ran for 44 yards on six carries and had a 3-yard reception.
Zion Gilliam completed his lone pass attempt for 31 yards. Isaias Robinson ran for 22 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. William Mabry had a 7-yard reception. Ulysses Lewis ran for 4 yards on three carries.
Kirk was pleased with the play of Overhills’ defense.
“The defense played well,” Kirk said. “You only give up 20 points, you should be able to win the game, because you should score 21.
“We just never got into a rhythm to do that.”
Kenneth McCray completed 7-of-11 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns and Josh Davidson had three receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown to lead the Knights (7-5).
Inniss ran for 60 yards on the first play from scrimmage. That led to him scoring on a 2-yard run shortly after. Mabry attempted to salvage a mishandled snap on the point after, but was stopped short.
Knightdale responded on the ensuing drive with McCray scoring on a 3-yard run. The extra point attempt missed.
Early in the second quarter, McCray completed an 18-yard touchdown to Khirell Knight to give Knightdale the lead. The conversion attempt was stopped.
Overhills answered late in the second to tie the game on a one-yard Robinson run. The conversion attempt was stopped, leaving the score tied 12-12 at the half.
Knights Take Lead
Late in the third, McCray completed a 40-yard touchdown to Davidson to retake the lead. Tomminique Crank ran for the 2-point conversion.
Overhills responded on the following drive with Robinson scoring on a 2-yard run. But the conversion attempt was stopped, leaving the Knights ahead 20-18.
Late in the game, Overhills made a stop in its own territory with 38 seconds left for one last chance to score. But a fumble with six seconds left allowed McCray to take a knee to end the game.
In spite of the loss, Overhills saw a significant turnaround this season, going from 3-8 in the regular season in 2016 to 8-3 in the regular season this year.
“I thought we played well for the most part of the season,” Kirk said. “I’m real proud of these kids. They started working in January and never stopped. That locker room is a great locker room to be in. The kids like each other. They love playing with each other.”
Kirk praised his outgoing seniors for their role in building the program.
“We’re going to miss some quality seniors,” Kirk said. “Real good leadership. We knew last year that the junior class, which are the seniors now, were going to do well because of their attitude. We had great attitudes from all of those seniors.”
With nearly the entire offensive and defensive lines returning, as well as a few key skill position players, Kirk believes Overhills can build upon this season’s success in the future.
“We’ve got the entire offensive line back next year, except for one,” Kirk said. “We had two 14-year-olds starting at defensive line and they matured quickly. Our offensive line is intact. Our defensive line and linebackers are coming back.
“We’re starting to build a program. Kids enjoy going to practice and they like the coaches. And we love those kids.
“They’ve been working their butts off. Future looks pretty bright.”
Jai Irvin goes up for a pass reception for the Jaguars.
Daily Record Photo/John Lucas