Big kickoff return lifts Cummings past Williams in opener; Cavaliers nip Bulldogs with aid of Paylor’s key plays
By Bob Sutton
Special to the Alamance News
Jonathan Paylor made one big play with the ball in his hands to begin the second half and another big play when he didn’t have the ball late in the game.
That combination turned out to be critical for Cummings High School in its season-opening 22-20 victory against host Williams High School on Friday night at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
Paylor, who has drawn the attention of major college programs throughout the country, began his junior season in style.
His 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to begin the second half resulted in the final points of the game.
“The coaches (were) like, ‘Paylor, go get it. Go get it,’ ” he said of the play. “I knew what was going to happen. I seen the hole. I hit it and it was wraps.”
See post-game comments from Paylor here:
Later, Paylor made the definitive defensive stop to clinch the outcome when the Bulldogs tried a trick play on fourth-and-11. Dan Mahon threw the ball back to quarterback Jaelen Brown on a version of a receiver pass, but Paylor raced toward the Williams sideline to make the tackle as Brown came up about a yard short.
“He’s got a great nose for the football, and he kind of sniffed that out,” Cummings coach David Grimm said after the game.
From scrimmage, Paylor collected 75 yards on 16 carries and 46 receiving yards on two catches.
On the kickoff return, he made it down the Cummings sideline to score his first points of the season.
“I was really surprised they kicked it that deep,” Paylor said.
The Bulldogs seemed more cautious on earlier kickoffs.
“That kid got away from us,” Williams coach Patrick Stokes confessed of Paylor’s play.
Grimm figures anytime Paylor has the ball, it’s a plus for the Cavaliers.
“I want him touching the football,” he said. “If we can get the ball in his hands, it’s always a good day. … We were shocked. All week we were thinking ‘They’re not going to kick it to him. They’re not going to kick it to him.’ We did kind of switch around the (return unit) because we thought maybe that might mess them up a little bit.”
For Williams, an array of misplays on third downs proved too much to overcome.
“It all boiled down to third down,” Stokes said. “… This was a game of not taking advantage of opportunities throughout the game.”
There was also a devastating fourth down for the Bulldogs. Paylor scurried 7 yards from punt formation for a first down to help the Cavaliers chew up more clock in the fourth quarter.
Williams opened the scoring on Jake Marquis’ 14-yard touchdown pass from Brown on the game’s opening possession.
Cummings was on the board with quarterback Johnniyus Sharpe’s 3-yard run later in the quarter. The Cavaliers were up 16-6 after Johan Diaz’s 30-yard field goal and Marioné Enoch’s 15-yard touchdown run.
But Williams responded after that latter score when Clifton Davis Jr. burst 99 yards on the ensuing kickoff to shift momentum. The Bulldogs regained the lead with 42 seconds left in the first half on Will Cooper’s 10-yard touchdown reception from Brown.
Williams running back Haneef Rasheed posted 86 rushing yards on 15 attempts.
But for the most part, the Cummings defense seemed more in tune after halftime.
“We just made those adjustments,” Grimm said. “We really put it on that front seven of our defense and they answered the call.”
Coupled with last year’s result, Cummings has won back-to-back meetings with the Bulldogs for the first time since 2010 and 2011.
“It feels better than last year,” Grimm said. “I don’t know why, but it just feels better.”
Bob Sutton is a veteran sports writer who has covered Alamance County sports for more than 25 years.
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