Heritage jumped to an early lead and then held off a Broughton comeback Friday night for a season-opening 19-13 nonconference football victory.
Now the two coaching staffs have to figure out exactly what they learned about their teams in the game.
A steady rain that approached downpour status at times, combined with temperatures in the low 40s, made throwing, catching or simply holding on to the ball an adventure.
The contest was loaded with fumbles and near-fumbles. And with it being the teams’ first game in nearly 15 months, there were plenty of penalties to help slow things down.
“This was a learning experience,” Heritage coach Wallace Clark said. “Actually, you can learn a lot from a game like this.”
In the end, it was a fumble that ended the comeback effort by a Broughton team that refused to give up.
The Capitals, trailing by six points, moved near midfield with a little more than two minutes remaining. On a second-down play, Broughton quarterback Ben Gilbert scrambled to evade Heritage tacklers, as he did much of the night, but a Huskie defender punched the ball out of his arm, and Heritage’s Dillon Bethea recovered.
All the Huskies needed was a first-down run, and they were able to eat up the clock and go find drier and warmer quarters.
“Those were two good quarterbacks playing tonight,” Clark said, referring to the Huskies’ Cade Cunningham and Gilbert. “They’re capable of throwing the ball very well. But with the way the weather went, we had to rely more on running the ball.”
Heritage, ranked seventh in the News & Observer’s Sweet 16 poll, struck quickly at the start of the game, with senior running back Jalen Rochelle breaking past defenders and going 51 yards for a touchdown — just 42 seconds into the contest.
Broughton took a 7-6 lead midway in the quarter on a 15-yard pass from Gilbert to McCallum Wright.
But the Huskies struck back, scoring on a 65-yard pass from Cunningham to Brodrick Gooch late in the quarter. That gave them a 13-7 lead, and it was Cunningham’s last completion of the night.
Heritage passed only seven times and ran 41 times.
Broughton, in contrast, had 15 designed running plays and 44 passes.
Three who mattered
Brodrick Gooch, Heritage: A 6-1 junior wide receiver, Gooch caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. It was the game’s longest play from scrimmage.
McCallum Wright, Broughton: Wright, a 6-2 sophomore wide receiver, caught a pair of touchdown passes and had nearly 100 yards in receptions.
Dillon Bethea, Heritage: A 6-0 junior linebacker, Bethea hounded Broughton quarterback Ben Gilbert all night. He had two sacks, several hurries and recovered a Caps’ fumble late in the game.
▪ Heritage coach Wallace Clark said his coaching staff wanted to experiment with different players in different situations. As a result, eight different Huskies ran the ball.
▪ There were 12 fumbles in the game, but remarkably, only two were lost — one by each team.
▪ Heritage kicker Cal Hardy won the Improvisation Award for the evening. He fumbled the snap on a punt in the third quarter, but picked the ball up, evaded two onrushing Broughton defenders, and kicked the ball sidewinder style. The kick went 23 yards and got his team out of a hole.
▪ Broughton quarterback Ben Gilbert completed only 16-of-44 passes, but he threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns. And he was under pressure on nearly every play.
Both teams are home next week. Broughton faces CAP 7 4A opponent Southeast Raleigh, and Heritage has a nonconference game against Southern Nash.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle
Broughton 7 0 0 6 — 13
Heritage 12 7 0 0 — 19
H: Jalen Rochelle 51 run (kick blocked)
B: McCallum Wright 15 pass from Ben Gilbert (Hayes Vick kick)
H: Brodrick Gooch 65 pass from Cade Cunningham (pass failed)
H: Coleson Fields 20 run (Cal Hardy kick)
B: Wright 23 pass from Gilbert (bad snap on conversion)