The abbreviated high school football schedule continued on Wednesday night as Legion Stadium played host to its second game in as many nights following a venue change for the Topsail versus West Brunswick matchup.
Trailing by six in the fourth quarter, the Pirates took over possession with 7:35 remaining and moved downfield to set up a decisive 4th and goal from the one-yard line and Drew Gaither punched it into the end zone for the tying score before Jorge Gonzales converted on the point after attempt to give the Pirates a 14-13 victory.
“I told the kids before this game that it was going to be won before the ear,” said Topsail Coach Wayne Inman. “I think that last drive they realized what they had to do in order to get it done. West Brunswick has a good football team and you can’t take anything away from that. It was a team effort and I’m proud of the guys for their hard work.”
The win snapped a three-game skid for Topsail and moved their conference record to 1-1, while improving to 4-3 overall. The Trojans dropped to 1-1 in league play and 4-3 on the year.
“We’ve been here before and once the wheels came off we just couldn’t get them back, so this win meant a lot to us to get a little momentum back and believing in ourselves and each other,” Inman added. “Our coaching staff did a great job on a short clock and wish I had more of them.”
After starting the final drive on their own 40-yard line, Jacob Floyd hit Aaron Pacheoo across the middle for a big gain to move the chains into West Brunswick territory. However, back-to-back false start penalties put Topsail with a long down and distance, but the Pirates were aided by a roughing the passer call to get inside the 10-yard line.
Freshman D.J. Montano carried the workload at running back, with 26 carries for 134 yards. Floyd completed 4-of-9 pass attempts and Chris Byrd made two receptions totaling 29 yards in the result.
West Brunswick took a 7-0 lead with 3:09 to play in the first quarter when Tariq Thomas picked up a fumble for the scoop and score on a 58 yard return to grab the early edge.
On the ensuing possession, Topsail engineered a 10-play, 65-yard drive that lasted five minutes as Grant McCoy scored from four yards out to tie the game with 10 minutes to go in the first half. The Pirates picked up two third-down conversions on the scoring drive, including a 16-yard pitch and catch from Floyd to Hunter Potts. McCoy also moved the chains on a five-yard pickup and later made a 24-yard run before finding the end zone.
“The nose guard beat us before we even handed off the ball to force the fumble, but our kids played tough,” said Inman. “The thing these kids are learning to do is to overcome adversity and I think they did that tonight.”
The game was knotted at seven until midway through the final frame when Hunter Ashburn set up the touchdown for the Trojans on a 53-yard pickup on 3rd and 19 to get inside the red zone. Shikeem Hill capped the drive with a nine-yard run around the left edge, but a missed extra point set the stage for Topsail and the Pirates took advantage off their final possession to grab the one-point triumph.
West Brunswick had three different running backs with eight rushes or more (Hill, Bubba McCray, Maliek King), totaling 135 yards on the ground. Ashburn added two big runs for 97 yards rushing on three carries.
Hunter Hall finished with an interception for Topsail, who has a few days to rest before returning to conference play with a road game at Ashley on Monday, Oct. 12. The game was originally scheduled for Friday, but school administrators moved the contest due to safety concerns because of the short week.
The Trojans look to get back in the win column at home against South Brunswick on Saturday, Oct. 10.
W. Brunswick 7-0-0-6=13
W. Brunswick- Tariq Thomas, 58-yard fumble recovery, (PAT, Hunter Ashburn) 3:09
Topsail- Grant McCory, 4-yard run, (PAT, Jorge Gonzales) 10:00
W. Brunswick- Shikeem Hill, 9-yard run, 7:35
Topsail- Drew Gaither, 1-yard run, (PAT, Gonzales) :22