BEAUFORT — East Carteret put a different football team on tape Friday night in its 55-12 win over Trask.
In his first start at quarterback, freshman Jacob Nelson turned the Mariners into an offensive juggernaut, totaling 342 of his team’s 499 yards and throwing for five touchdowns.
“It was a good thing to see him get in and perform at the level he did,” East coach B.J. Frazier said. “That was impressive.”
A big homecoming crowd was eager to see their Mariners – East hasn’t played a home game since Aug. 30 – and Nelson gave them plenty to cheer about early on with four scoring tosses in the first half.
And while it should be noted the performance came against a struggling Titans squad, the teams on the field mirrored each other.
East (2-5 overall, 2-1 in 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference) entered the game with only one win and had been outscored by an average of 31.2 points per game while averaging 12.8 points on offense and giving up an average of 44 on defense. Trask (0-7, 0-3) entered the game winless and had been outscored by an average of 33.8 points per game while averaging 6.3 on offense and giving up an average of 40 on defense.
The squads also had comparable scores versus common opponents. The Titans lost to Pender 16-14 and fell to Richlands 40-8, while the Mariners beat Pender 27-20 and lost to Richlands 49-13.
However, you couldn’t tell the teams were equal after Nelson went to work. He finished with 245 passing yards, going 10-of-14 through the air, and added 97 yards on the ground on nine carries.
“He’s a freshman, and he’s not scared to make mistakes,” Frazier said. “He can sling it. We knew that from the start. We’ve been working on his mechanics and knowing the plays. That is the big thing, you have to know the plays.”
The freshman, who looks more like a senior at a solid 6-2, 185 pounds, hit Qualik Nolon for a 31-yard play after a quick toss at the line of scrimmage for the first of East’s eight touchdowns.
The second score was the highlight of the night with Nelson scrambling back on a play that looked like a disaster in the making with the potential for a huge loss of yardage before breaking three tackles and finding his brother Grant Nelson wide open for a 74-yard touchdown.
Deon Todd took a pass from Nelson midway through the second quarter and turned on the jets, scoring from 31 yards out, and Nolon wrapped up the first-half scoring when he hauled in a 30-yard touchdown toss from Nelson.
Nelson had attempted one pass on the season before Friday, acting mainly as a running back and wide receiver.
“He played some in the West Carteret and West Craven games, but we didn’t want him playing his first games as a freshman at quarterback versus those types of teams,” Frazier said.
Sophomore Adam McIntosh had started the previous six games at signal-caller and had improved his passing numbers of late, throwing for a combined 268 yards in the two prior games after throwing for a total of 131 in the first three.
However, as he showed versus the Titans, McIntosh is a more gifted runner, going for 65 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. McIntosh now has 369 yards on 83 carries this season with 225 of those yards coming in the last three games.
“Adam is a great runner,” Frazier said. “He actually feels more comfortable there than he did at quarterback, so that situation worked itself out.”
Frazier credited McIntosh for the ease of the quarterback transition.
“Adam is a great leader,” he said. “He doesn’t just focus on his part. He knows the offense and does a good job of teaching it to the other kids. He helped us with this a lot, and he gives us the ability to get a quicker running back on the field with him back there.”
McIntosh made it a 35-6 game midway through the third quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run.
A freshman quarterback and sophomore running back operating behind freshmen at guard (Brody Nelson) and center (Cody Shepard) had the Mariners looking like a team built for the future. Fifteen of the 26 players on the roster are underclassmen.
East closed the scoring with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Nelson connected with Nolon on a 2-yard scoring pass, Deshawn Frazier plunged over the goal line from 3 yards out, and Todd again flashed his speed on a 27-yard run to pay dirt.
Nolon produced 107 total yards, while Todd added 74.
Nelson hit five receivers, including Skylar Gray (one catch, 36 yards) and Chandler Eakes (two caches, 5 yards).
“He did a great job of distributing it and getting it to a lot of people,” Frazier said.
Aidan Wolf aided his team’s offensive production by craftily booting two well-placed onside kicks that were recovered by teammates.
“He’s got that good backspin on it,” Frazier said. “It worked well. And he’s a soccer player, and we really haven’t had a chance to practice it. He’s just a good kicker.”
The Mariners never punted and didn’t turn it over. They put up their best outing of the season despite missing tackle Aiden Richardson who is out indefinitely with a foot injury.
The defense was equally impressive, giving up just one touchdown, four first downs and limiting Trask to 116 total yards, thanks to minus-2 passing yards. Jathan Parker had three sacks, followed by Kason Wade and Miguel Bassotto with one apiece.
The Titans’ offense finally found the end zone with 46 seconds remaining in the game when David Newkirk scored from 3 yards out. The play was set up by a 65-yard run from Will Berry.
The other score came on an 85-yard kickoff return by Reggie Carr just before halftime.
After starting the season 0-4, East is now 2-1 in its last three games, and after playing four games in a row on the road, the team will play three of its last five at home, beginning with Trask.
“I was so tired of traveling,” Frazier said. “And we’re back on the road next week. I’ve missed playing here.”
The Mariners will next visit Dixon. The Bulldogs are 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the Coastal 8 after a 34-13 loss to Croatan on Friday.