Cary running back Deandre Henry (32) changes direction as he sprints downfield on a big running play. RAY BLACK III - newsobserver.com
CARY - One of the biggest reasons for the best start to a Cary football season in years has been the Imps' knack for scoring in ways other than its offense. The Imps got even more creative on Friday in a 19-10 Tri-Nine Conference victory over Middle Creek.
A defensive touchdown -- Cary's fourth of the year -- and a score on a broken play were the difference for the Imps, who were out-gained in yardage 328-199 by the Mustangs.
"Our defense has been playing really great all year and tonight was a chance to showcase that," Cary coach Ben Kolstad said. "We've taken some lumps over the past two years and it's good to get a break after awhile. Our kids have worked hard and they deserve this."
Safety Tommy Robinson started off the scoring by returning a Garrett Leatham interception 46 yards to the end zone, putting Cary up 7-0.
"I didn't even expect to catch the ball. I had been dropping them all week in practice," Robinson said. "We're basically one unit on defense and that's the reason we came out on top tonight."
Middle Creek tied it up on the ensuing drive as Daquan Render ran in a one-yard touchdown.
Then, in one of the most bizarre plays you'll see on a Friday night high school contest, Henry snatched a backwards fumble by quarterback Connor Chase out of midair, made a sprint around the left side, and went 63 yards untouched into the end zone.
The unlikely touchdown put Cary up 13-7.
"Whatever gets us points," Robinson said, which could very well by the Imps' motto this season.
Cary has scored on multiple safeties and returned three kicks for touchdown on top of the defensive scores.
A 29-yard field goal by Will Gilfillan made it 16-7 at half as four Middle Creek turnovers -- including three fumbles -- doomed the Mustangs offense.
Even after a blocked punt by junior Jackson Rider in the second quarter, the Mustangs stalled in the red zone on another fumble.
"They're a good defense, they're really physical," Middle Creek coach Sean Crocker said of Cary. "We've got to take advantage of our opportunities. When we were moving the ball well we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.
Chad Gunton had a 30-yard field goal for Middle Creek to provide the only score of third quarter.
Gillfillan's 30-yarder with 29 seconds was the only score in the fourth quarter and clinched the game for Cary as it made it a two-possession game.
The Tri-Nine now has four teams all tied for second with one conference loss.
"It's going to be fun. We told our guys, it's like the playoffs," Kolstad said. "Every week is like a playoff game and we're going to take it one week at a time."
Cary's homecoming win gave the Mustangs its first conference loss. Jessie Woodard was the Cary High homecoming queen.