By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Williams had its offense clicking at several levels during the first round of the Class 3-A state playoffs.
The timing was ideal for the Bulldogs, who handled visiting Wilson Hunt 44-22 on Friday night at Burlington Memorial Stadium.
“There’s good synergy right now between our backs and our receivers, our quarterback,” Williams coach Patrick Stokes said. “The kids are doing a really good job of executing when it matters. Obviously, all of that can’t be done unless you can block it.”
Those were all present, enabling the Bulldogs to overcome the loss of quarterback Dan Mahan to a second-quarter injury. Running back Haneef Rasheed II scored five touchdowns, with two on receptions.
“We weren’t perfect and that’s what we strive for,” Rasheed said. “We’re still going to come back and work as a team and score again.”
Williams (9-2) has its first nine-win season in 17 years. The Bulldogs advance to a rematch of Fayetteville Seventy-First’s overtime victory in the second round in 2021. The Falcons are 11-0 this year.
The No. 15 seed Bulldogs scored on their first four possessions against No. 17 seed Wilson Hunt (8-3).
Williams chose to go on offense first after winning the pregame coin flip. That turned out well when Mahan ran 62 yards on the game’s second snap.
“I think it meant a little more,” Mahan said. “I have to be able to give my all.”
The Bulldogs settled for Grant Spoon’s 27-yard field goal on their next possession. Then following a fourth-down stop by the defense came a nine-play, 95-yard drive that ended on Mahan’s 29-yard pass to Rasheed.
“We had a game plan. We stuck to it,” Mahan said. “We always seem to get back on track.”
The first play of Williams’ next possession marked the final snap of the game for Mahan, who exited with a recurring right ankle injury. He missed time earlier in the season after sustaining the injury in the second game.
“Best it has felt all year,” Mahan said of prior to the 6:51 mark of the second quarter. “I’ll play (in the second round), for sure. I’ll rest on it. I can’t miss that one.”
Stokes said there was no reason to use Mahan, who had 74 rushing yards and 85 yards through the air on 6-for-11 passing, in the second half.
“We spend a lot of time working on a lot of things and perfecting a lot of things,” Rasheed said. “It’s not a case where we’re shellshocked (with Mahan out).”
Rasheed was explosive at times on the way to 152 yards on 11 carries. Amarion Richmond gained 110 yards on 10 attempts.
“That we were able to run the ball, that’s what I’m most proud of,” offensive lineman Jack Rowe said.
Backup quarterback Kyrian Fuller connected with Rasheed for a 29-yard pass play for a touchdown on the seven-play, 89-yard drive that began with Mahan’s injury.
Rasheed took a direct snap for a 34-yard touchdown run on fourth down in the third quarter. He scored from 22 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter and later on a 78-yard burst as Williams went up 44-7.
All this was good, but it came with a reminder.
“Our goal wasn’t to win just one game,” Rasheed said.