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Football: Big second half sends Northern Nash past Nash Central

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Northern Nash's Amir Pittman-Williams runs the ball on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, during the game against Nash Central at Nash Central High School.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, September 14, 2019

By the second quarter of Northern Nash’s 46-20 win over host Nash Central on Friday, Amir Pittman-Williams was sporting some fresh bling.

Draped around the neck of the Knights running back was a green ‘N’ attached to a gold-colored chain. Whoever makes an important play has the honor of wearing it on the sideline.

It was the first time the Knights brought this out, an idea that reminded of the University of Miami Hurricanes’ turnover chain. And Pittman-Williams became quite familiar with the necklace over the course of Northern Nash’s win.

“You just have to make a big play on either side of the ball, whether it be offense, defense or special teams,” Pittman-Williams said. “Basically, if you make a big play, you get the chain.”

The senior running back, who transferred from Southeast Halifax before the season, scored five touchdowns for the Knights. Four of those touchdowns came on the ground as he ran for 164 yards on 20 carries. He added a 37-yard touchdown catch-and-run late in the third quarter, as part of his team-high 56 receiving yards.

Knights second-year coach Andrew Farriss said that Pittman-Williams has given his team an edge this season. And the Knights (3-1) needed every bit of his talent in a tight first half.

The running back scored three important touchdowns in the first half to keep pace with Nash Central (2-2), which scored late in the second quarter to tie the score at 20-20 heading into the break.

“Amir, he’s a huge difference maker,” Farriss said. “... And to have a guy like Amir, where you can give the ball to and know that he’s going to make something happen, he’s huge for us right now and we’re thankful to have him.”

Nash Central opened the game with a touchdown drive on its first possession. The teams continued to trade scores in the first half, with neither team extending a lead past a touchdown.

The third and fourth quarters belonged to Northern Nash. The Knights offense scored three touchdowns and Kameron Johnson returned a punt 60 yards for another score. The Northern Nash defense, meanwhile, was sharp as ever in holding the Bulldogs scoreless over the final 24 minutes.

Three things

1. The Northern Nash defense was exceptional in the second half of Friday’s win. The unit, which has been challenged by Farriss all season long, allowed 44 yards in the second half and no points.

The 20 points were the fewest allowed by the Knights since a Week 1 win.

“We were caught up in emotions and not really executing. We were a step slow. We were prepared but just did not execute in the first half,” Farriss said of the defense. “And the light just switched and they really came out and played lights-out defense. That’s the type of defense I’ve been hoping to see out of us for a long time. I was questioning if we were capable of playing that type of defense, and they answered and alleviate my fears.”

2. Both teams scored special teams touchdowns on Friday. Nash Central’s Shemar Henderson — the team’s leading rusher — showed off his game-breaking speed when he returned a kickoff 75 yards for a score in the first quarter. His touchdown gave the Bulldogs a 13-12 lead that stood until 20:06 remaining in the first half.

3. Northern Nash’s Thomas Engelking played more quarterback than he had all season. The junior was 7-for-13 passing and threw his first touchdown pass. Engelking had attempted four passes all season as Kameron Johnson manned the position through the first three weeks. Farriss made the switch in the first half, which allowed Engelking to show off his strong arm and allowed Johnson to make an impact elsewhere on the field.

“Thomas had a really good game. Both are really good and really different,” Farriss said of his quarterbacks. “I just felt like we needed something, and he really played well. And (Johnson) played well at other positions. He’s so valuable in the return game (returned a punt for a TD), on defense, and he can make plays at different positions.”

He said it

“I thought we played well in the first half, but it’s like we went back to 2015 of just trying to learn how to win. We turned the corner I thought, and we have to fight through this. It’s a work in progress.” — Nash Central coach Chris Lee.

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