Four unanswered touchdowns in the second half from SouthWest Edgecombe allowed the Cougars to break open a tight game and pull away from host Northern Nash for a 40-20 win on Friday.

“We believe in each other and we had to fight for each other because we faced a lot of adversity when we first came out tonight,” SWE running back Cortezz Jones said.

The adversity Jones talked about came in the form of the Northern Nash defense. And it was Jones, who was emotional in his team’s post-game huddle following a loss to Tarboro the previous week, who provided the thump for the SWE running game against a tough Northern Nash front that dominated for much of the first half.

The Cougars (4-1) punted three times in the opening half and played from behind after the Knights (4-2) scored on their opening drive. The area’s top rusher entering Friday, Knights senior Amir Pittman-Williams, led Northern Nash with 156 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

Quarterback Kameron Johnson added 87 rushing yards and a touchdown as he and Pittman-Willliams took turns gashing the Cougars’ defense for much of the game.

“He’s tough to stop, and it was working tonight,” Knights coach Andrew Farriss said of Pittman-Williams and the offense. “I don’t feel like (SWE) stopped it. We stopped ourselves.”

SWE grabbed its first lead with 11:10 remaining in the game as the running game became overwhelming. Demari Mabry ran for a game-high 206 yards to go with touchdowns runs of 40, 21 and 60 yards.

Jones added three rushing touchdowns and 120 yards as part of 358 total rushing yards from SWE. Jones had 26 yards at halftime while Mabry had 78. Both runners found more space, and success, on the ground in a second half that was dominated by the Cougars.

Northern Nash had the ball for 7 minutes, 42 seconds of game clock to start the third quarter and scored on Johnson’s 20-yard rushing touchdown to take a 20-13 lead. The margin didn’t last long as SWE needed less than a minute to go 80 yards in three plays capped by a Jones 14-yard touchdown for the tying score.

“Like we always say, if you see a light through a crack you can get through it,” Jones said of the running game. “And that’s what we did, we got through it hard.”

That touchdown was the start of four consecutive scores. Jones added one more when the Cougars had the ball at the Knights’ 15 following an errant snap on a punt. Mabry scored the next touchdown following an interception, then would add another with 30 seconds left to cap the scoring.

“We just wanted to finish the game strong, play it out, and don’t let up,” Mabry said of his touchdown in the final minute. “When I got the ball it was green light, just green.”

Northern Nash is off next week before starting Big East Conference play on Oct. 11 against Wilson Hunt. SWE is back in action on Friday on the road at Corinth Holders.

Three things

1. The SWE defense played well in pass coverage by holding the Knights receivers to 32 yards until the final drive of the game. The Cougars picked off each Northern Nash quarterback once and swatted down a number of other passes. The Cougars did allow a passing touchdown, however. With six seconds to play before halftime, Knights quarterback Kameron Johnson danced around in the backfield before finding Austin Curtis who made a nice catch with two defenders draped all over him.

The Cougars didn’t allow much else as Demari Mabry intercepted Johnson in the end zone to end a first-half scoring threat. Elsewhere, Cougars defensive back Larry Jones got his hands on and broke up two more passes in the first half. Also, Ja’quez Macon broke up a pass on third and 11 in the third quarter, then sealed the win with an interception of his own with 2:06 left in the game.

2. The Northern Nash offense is coming together and was playing at a high level throughout much of the first half. Quarterback Kameron Johnon orchestrated the run-pass option with confidence, which led to big gains on the ground from Johnson and running back Amir Pittman-Williams.

The Knights were even able to find success throwing out of that as Austin Curtis caught a 12-yard touchdown pass, while receivers Jayden Freeman (5 catches, 62 yards) and Caleb Reams (1 catch, 15 yards) also got involved.

“We can take advantage of the passing game with it,” Farriss said of the RPO. “But it’s hard to go away from (the run) when the run is working, but it’s so dangerous for us with the weapons we have. I was proud of that tonight.”

3. One of the more important tasks for opposing defenses when playing SWE is to take away Cougars receiver Keishon Porter. The 6-foot-4 senior was the only player to catch a pass for the Cougars, and he was held to two catches for 36 yards.

Farriss said that his team occasionally played double coverage on the big pass-catcher. The coach said that he had a number of players willing to defend Porter, despite giving up as much as six inches or more in height.

“Some guys took the challenge, some guys just wanted the challenge to step up,” Farriss said. “They just took that challenge and wanted to play against him. Some of the guys know him from basketball, and they wanted that challenge of defending him. I’m super proud of how they did.”

He said it

“The first quarter we had our doubts, but we came out and played strong. We came out here thinking it was going to be like a play game, but they showed us that they’re a real team and we had to buck up.” — SWE defensive back Ja’quez Macon.

Scoring plays

First quarter

NN — Amir Pittman-Williams 2 run (Paul Powell kick), 4:21

SWE — Demari Mabry 40 run (kick failed), 2:10

Second quarter

NN — Austin Curtis 12 pass from Kameron Johnson (kick failed), 11:52

SWE — Cortezz Jones 1 run (Hunter Hopkins kick), 5:37

Third quarter

NN — Johnson 20 run (Powell kick), 6:12

SWE — Jones 14 run (Hopkins kick), 3:37

Fourth quarter

SWE — Jones 4 run (kick failed), 11:10

SWE — Mabry 21 run (Jones run), 5:27

SWE — Mabry 60 run (run failed), 0:30