North­west­ern star comes up big in play­off game

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Sports - BY BRET MCCORMICK bm­c­cormick@her­al­don­line.com

Ja­mario Hol­ley was un­touch­able Thurs­day night and that helped North­west­ern pro­long its foot­ball sea­son an­other week.

The South Carolina-com­mit­ted se­nior scored a hat-trick of touch­downs in the first half and fin­ished the game with five scores and 265 yards. His play helped the Tro­jans hold off Boil­ing Springs 54-35, set­ting up a game next week against the win­ner of T.L. Hanna-Spar­tan­burg.

“He’s had the pres­sure on his shoul­ders but we’ve just been say­ing ‘re­lax, go have fun,” said North­west­ern coach James Martin. “It’s just a foot­ball game, don’t carry the whole world on your shoul­ders.”

The first quar­ter was, well, weird. Hol­ley re­turned the open­ing kick­off through a yawn­ing hole 94 yards for a touch­down, but the hosts’ ex­cite­ment didn’t last long. Caden Peeler took the Tro­jans’ kick­off 90 yards the other di­rec­tion for a touch­down, only to miss the ex­tra point.

“We’ve been prac­tic­ing kick re­turn and they said there would be a hole,” Hol­ley said. “Went in there, ex­e­cuted like we did, touch­down.”

Hol­ley scored for the sec­ond time, get­ting be­hind the Bull­dog sec­ondary for a 68-yard TD con­nec­tion to make it 14-6. The Tro­jans tried to grow their lead but after a pass com­ple­tion, fum­bled. The foot­ball landed in the arms of a Boil­ing Springs line­backer and he raced the other

di­rec­tion, only to cough up the rock around the Tro­jans’ 10-yard line. The loose squirted into the end zone and — after the refs ini­tially sig­naled a touch­down — was ruled a touch­back and North­west­ern’s ball.

The Tro­jans scored soon enough, though, a fan­tas­tic Nick Acus punt pin­ning Boil­ing Springs at its 4-yard line early in the sec­ond quar­ter. North­west­ern sent much of its de­fense after Bull­dog QB Aaron Thomas sev­eral plays later and he fum­bled, Ty Bur­ris re­cov­er­ing for the Tro­jans. Hol­ley scored his third TD of the half on a 1-yard run to make it 21-12.

The vis­i­tors scored the last 10 points of the half. Tan­ner Rob­bins smashed a 40-yard field goal through the yel­low pipes and the Bull­dogs took the lead with 53 sec­onds left on a screen pass to Trey Miller. He fol­lowed block­ers 47 yards for a touch­down and a 22-21 lead, after Rob­bins’ ex­tra point.

TURN­ING POINT

Lead­ing 22-21, Boil­ing Springs got the ball first in the sec­ond half. But North­west­ern’s de­fense forced three-and-outs on the Bull­dogs’ first three pos­ses­sions, while the Tro­jans scored on their first play of the sec­ond half with a 53-yard TD toss to Hol­ley. After an­other stop, North­west­ern scored again, An­to­nio Heath pound­ing into the end zone from seven yards to make it 34-22.

“We didn’t have very good pos­ses­sions right there in a row, that was big, no doubt,” said Boil­ing Springs coach Rick Tate.

CRIT­I­CAL

The wind was whip­ping when the two teams came out and Boil­ing Springs had to con­front that in the third quar­ter. It didn’t go well. The Bull­dogs fin­ished 2-of-13 on third down, in­clud­ing three straight third down fails early in the third quar­ter when the Tro­jans scored 14 straight points to grab the lead.

“It was a huge mo­men­tum swing, hav­ing that wind blow­ing the way it was swirling,” said Martin.

STAR CON­TRIB­U­TORS

Hol­ley was phe­nom­e­nal, show­ing the kind of dom­i­nant form that leaves col­lege coaches drool­ing.

“My head was on straight all day,” he said.

But he had plenty of help on of­fense from Heath, who fin­ished with 160 to­tal yards and two touch­downs. Ghari Page ran for 95 yards.

Charles McFad­den ran for 101 yards and two scores to lead the vis­i­tors.

ANDY BURRISS Spe­cial to The Her­ald

North­west­ern hosted Boil­ing Springs Thurs­day. North­west­ern’s Ger-Cari Cald­well es­capes from Boil­ing Springs’ Caden Sul­li­van. The Tro­jans held off Boil­ing Springs for a 54-35 win.

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