Coach Gary Fowler, center gets an earful of celebration from player Chris Petty, left, and is congratulated by player Demage Bailey, right after getting his 200th career victory. MICHAEL MCLOONE - newsobserver.com
SMITHFIELD -- The best thing about career win No. 200 for Clayton head coach Gary Fowler was that it was win No. 6 this season, which made the Comets winners for the season.
Clayton topped rival Smithfield-Selma 38-13 Friday night, earning the Comets (6-5 overall, 4-3 Greater Neuse River 4-A) a playoff spot as the league's No. 3 finisher.
The victory also gives the Comets their first winning season at the 4-A level and their first winning regular-season since 2005. Fowler, a Smithfield-Selma graduate oddly enough, has coached the Comets since 1985, through the 2-A, 3-A and 4-A ranks.
"Two hundred doesn't compare in value tonight to that sixth win," Fowler said. "These kids have worked so hard to get us back in the playoffs, to have a winning season and I'm just happy for them."
Clayton scored on four of its first five drives against SSS, the only non-scoring drive ending with a lost fumble. Tamerick Barbour, Gareth Davies and Montrelle Sanders all had first-half TD runs, while Demage Bailey pulled in a 14-yard scoring pass from Matt Reid.
The Comets led just 7-6 when Dallon Wallace picked up what was ruled a Spartans' backwards pass and fumble, returning is six yards for a touchdown. Clayton scored the game's next 31 points against the Spartans (1-10, 0-7).
SSS got within 7-6 on a 6-yard touchdown run by Justin Weeks with 6:21 to play in the first quarter.
Montrelle Sanders led Clayton with 95 yards rushing, while Brad Stanback added 89 yards. SSS's Adam Driver threw for 103 yards and a touchdown, connecting with Dylan Homick in the fourth quarter.