EVERETT - Everett coach Mark Kirk was so displeased with his team Thursday he left practice, telling the players they were "not ready to play."
The Warriors proved their coach wrong, storming out to an early 21-0 lead and holding off Claysburg-Kimmel in the fourth quarter for a 27-20 victory Friday at Everett Warriors Stadium.
"Sometimes you have to do that kind of thing," Kirk said about leaving practice. "The kids played with a lot of excitement at the start of the game."
After starting the season 0-3, Everett has won five of its last six games to secure at least a .500 record after winning just three games the last two years combined. A win over Central next Friday will give the the Warriors their first winning season since 2009.
"This is a resilient bunch of kids. After starting 0-3, they could have tanked it, but they've kept fighting," Kirk said.
It took Everett just two plays to grab a 7-0 lead. Barkley Rhoat scored on a 68-yard touchdown run off a counter play. The senior back exploded through a hole up the middle, cut to the sideline and sprinted untouched the rest of the way.
A Rhoat 4-yard touchdown later in the quarter followed by Drew Ritchey's 44-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second put Everett ahead 21-0.
Zach Helsel's 1-yard touchdown late in the half pulled Claysburg to within 21-6, and Claysburg threatened to make it even closer on the opening drive of the second half.
Trey Claar completed a pass to Devin Weyandt in the flat and the big tight end rumbled for 53 yards, giving the Bulldogs a first down at the Everett 11, but on fourth-and-1 from the 2, Everett stuffed a quarterback sneak for the turnover on downs.
"It was a huge momentum swing. That would have got us within one score," Claysburg coach Joe Kitt said. "We thought we could get it with the sneak but they stuffed it."
Later in the third, Helsel fumbled and Everett's Philip Cummings recovered at the Claysburg 10, setting up a Ritchey 6-yard touchdown run that gave the Warriors a 27-6 lead two plays into the final quarter.
Claysburg faced a similar situation last week against Tussey Mountain, and scored three touchdowns in the final 4:14 to pull out a 33-27 win. The Bulldogs tried to do the same against Everett.
Helsel answered Ritchey's touchdown run with a 60-yarder of his own and scored again on a 5-yard run with 3:36 left to make it a 27-20 game.
"We were in the same situation last week, but we didn't make the plays we did last week," Kitt said. "We fought extremely hard and never gave up."
After Austin Karns recovered the ensuing onside kick, Everett was trying to wrap up the win but nearly fumbled it away. Rhoat lost the ball not once but twice, giving Claysburg two chances to tie or go ahead.
Everett's defense held off the Bulldogs both times.
Kyle Scheaffer's interception ended Claysburg's first opportunity, and the Everett defense stuffed Helsel on fourth-and-short with 1:12 remaining to seal the win.
"We don't usually put the ball on the ground like that," Kirk said. "The defense really stepped up when we needed to have it."
Helsel finished with 172 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries, and Claar threw for 161 yards on 11-of-23 passing. Weyandt was the featured target with nine catches for 141 yards.
For Everett, Rhoat had 171 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Claysburg-Kimmel0 6 0 14 - 20
Everett14 7 0 6 - 27
E-Rhoat 68 run (Droz kick), 11:10.
E-Rhoat 4 run (kick failed), 3:15.
E-Ritchey 44 interception return (McInroy run), 10:48.
CK-Helsel 1 run (kick failed), 1:13.
E-Ritchey 6 run (kick failed), 11:49.
CK-Helsel 60 run (Helsel run), 10:45.
CK-Helsel 5 run (pass failed), 3:36.
RUSHING: Claysburg-Kimmel-Helsel 30-172, Claar 5-4. Everett-Rhoat 15-171, Jay 7-15, McInroy 6-4, Droz 3-12, Ritchey 1-6, Jays 2-0, Mearkle 1-10, Karns 1-1, TEAM 2-(-2).
PASSING: Claysburg-Kimmel-Claar 11-23-1-161, Helsel 0-2-1-0. Everett-McInroy 4-11-0-84.
RECEIVING: Claysburg-Kimmel-Weyandt 9-141, Repko 1-7, Helsel 1-13. Everett-Ritchey 1-33, Sheaffer 1-14, Jays 1-12, Droz 1-25.
INTERCEPTIONS: Everett-Ritchey, Sheaffer.