The High Point High School football team ended its 41-game losing streak Saturday with a relatively easy victory against its rival, Laurel, 38-16.
High Point is undefeated and tied for first place in the County 4A League. That's the good news. The bad is that the Eagles face the league favorites, Henry A. Wise, next week.
Also, one of the players High Point coach Andre Brown said he was counting on this year, senior tight end/linebacker Stanley Ijomoh, left the field in an ambulance with an apparent wrist injury.
But no one wanted to look ahead after Saturday's game. A team that has had to deal with the state's longest active skid since last winning in November 2007 was thoroughly enjoying the moment.
“When we were warming up, they came out hyped,” quarterback Raymond Lyles said. “Seeing that my team wanted it, and knowing I wanted it, we just had to [do it.]”
In 10 games last season, High Point generated 24 points. After one game this year, the Eagles have 38.
“My kids have worked hard, in the classroom, weight room and practice” Brown said. “I think we woke up some people today.”
High Point junior running back/safety Jalen McGill was the best player on the field Saturday. He scored on offense (23-yard run), on defense (22-yard interception return) and special teams (a 90-yard kickoff return to start the second half).
“I scored three times, but I wouldn't have done it without the team” McGill said. “Our practices is where we became good. We came out here and showed them that we're good.”
Receiver/defensive back Milton Madrid also scored on both sides of the ball, catching a 42-yard touchdown pass from Lyles and returning an interception 70 yards.
McGill finished with 73 yards rushing.
Laurel coach Todd Sommerville said he worried a team with only five returning senior starters might struggle early.
“We showed our youth,” he said. “We made too many mistakes.”
Laurel quarterback Jarvis McClam was difficult to stop, running for 115 yards and throwing for 70 more. The rushing totals would have been much higher, but a handful of high shotgun snaps led to some easy tackles in the backfield.
High Point scored first after Laurel attempted a fake punt on fourth down and did not convert, setting up the Eagles inside Spartans' territory. Four plays later, McGill broke free for a 23-yard touchdown run.
Laurel appeared to tie it when McClam rushed 32 yards for a score, but the play was called back by a procedure penalty. Two plays later, High Point's McGill knocked away a fourth-down pass to end the drive.
Lyles scored on a 3-yard run to make it 12-0. Laurel scored on the next drive on a 21-yard pass from McClam to Julius Livas, making it 12-8.
But the Eagles responded, as Lyles hit a wide open Madrid for a 42-yard score.
“I guess the coverage broke down,” Madrid said in an understatement. He was behind every Laurel player.
High Point made it 24-8 as Madrid's 70-yard interception return came on the final play of the first half.
Any hope that Laurel would mount a second-half comeback took an immediate blow when McGill returned the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a 30-8 lead.
The Spartans made it 30-16 on a McClam to Justin Williams 25-yard touchdown pass, but that's as close as they got. McGill returned an interception 22 yards with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game to clinch the victory.
The Eagles' Carlos Mancilla added to it two plays later by recording a safety touching down McClam in the end zone after the Laurel quarterback retreated there to gather a high snap.
High Point's defense should get a lot of credit for the victory, contributing the two interception returns for touchdowns, but also limiting Laurel to two scores. Defensive tackle Dominic Stewart had two sacks to lead the way on the line.
“I saw the hole, I went and took it, and got the sack” Stewart said. “Our defense was on point. We can still improve, but we're real good right now.”
High Point 38, Laurel 16
High Point (1-0) 6 18 6 8 — 38
Laurel (0-1) 0 8 8 0 — 16
HP — Jalen McGill 23 run (kick failed)
HP — Raymond Lyles 3 run (pass failed)
L — Julius Livas 21 pass from Jarvis McClam (McClam pass to Justin Williams)
HP — Milton Madrid 42 pass from Raymond Lyles (run failed)
HP — Milton Madrid 70 yard interception return (pass failed)
HP — Jalen McGill 90 kickoff return (pass failed)
L — Justin Williams 25 pass from Jarvis McClam (Markus Bryd run)
HP — Jalen McGill 22 interception return (run failed)
HP — Carlos Mancilla sacks Jarvis McClam in endzone
High Point: Jalen McGill 16-73; Raymond Lyles 7-24; Jonathan Betancourt 4-13; Stanley Ijomoh 1-(-2).
Laurel: Jarvis McClam 19-115; Markus Byrd 9-42; Brandon Boodie 3-16; Malik Harvin 1-11; Lewis Turner 4-(-7); Mason Duckett 1-(-20).
High Point: Raymond Lyles 4-8-68-0-1 (completions, attempts, yards, interceptions and touchdowns).
Laurel: Jarvis McClam 6-20-70-3-2; Mason Duckett 0-2-0-0-0.
High Point: Milton Madrid 1-42; Jalen McGill 1-18; Stanley Ijomoh 2-8.
Laurel: Julius Livas 3-34; Justin Williams 1-25; Malik Harvin 1-7.