Monday, November 04, 2013 11:35 PM
Fike-Hunt: There can be only 1
Between Fridays notebook
From staff reports
Calling Friday night’s Hunt at Fike varsity football game "big” would be a disservice.
Anytime the two squads take the field, court, diamond or even ping-pong table, the stakes are high. But this time, epic might not even be enough of a descriptor.
In mounting their undefeated streak, the Golden Demons have been reminded week after week of the possibility of becoming the first Fike varsity football team to start 10-0 since the 1984 edition.
Fike matched that feat with last Thursday’s 29-12 conquest at Northern Nash.
And when the Demons welcome arch rival Hunt to Buddy Bedgood Stadium with the 3-A Big East Conference championship at stake Friday evening, they will be attempting to become the first Fike team to go 11-0 since the 1969 squad.
The 1969 team was the third of three successive Fike N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A championship teams.
The 2013 team is joined by the 1969, 1971 and 1984 as the only Fike editions to start 10-0.
Hunt also got a little bit of a history lesson on Thursday as the members of the 1983 Hunt varsity team were honored at halftime of a 41-0 win over Nash Central.
That Warriors squad was the first to defeat Fike, and eventually went on to an 11-2 season and spot in the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 4-A semifinals to set the tone for an era of dominance.
Hunt coach Stevie Hinnant was on that team, which freshman quarterback Tae Davis said was "cool.”
Davis said he didn’t have a feeling of awe around the 1983 players.
"No, I didn’t feel that way,” he said. "They really made me feel a part of all of it — of the Hunt family.”
On the line for the Warriors are a few impressive streaks.
Hunt has won at least a share of each Big East football crown since the current alignment of six teams began in the 2009. In that time, the Warriors are 23-1 in league play — including 16 in a row.
They also have an eight-game win streak against the Golden Demons — two each year from 2009-2012. Fike beat the Warriors twice in 2008.
"We’re going to do the best we can, it definitely should be interesting,” Hinnant said. "It’s two really good football teams going at it. It’s going to be an interesting game to watch and I hope there are a lot of people there. They deserve it.
"These kids, they understand they are part of a rich tradition and you know we are going to go to Fike and we’re certainly not going to roll over and play dead. We’re gonna go try and win a football game.”
Oh, and if Fike wins they capture the Wilson County Championship. A Hunt win forces a three-way tie with Beddingfield.
The preference would have been to get the defense off the field more quickly on Northern Nash possessions and watching a 16-0 lead dwindle to 16-12 was certainly not in the game plan for undefeated Fike in its 3-A Big East Conference test at Northern Nash last Thursday evening.
However, third-year head coach Tom Nelson drew positives from the situation.
"It was good for us to get under a little pressure,” he contended. "We kind of had to find our way a little bit. A lot of teams might have buckled, but we answered in resounding fashion (with two touchdowns). We did it again and did it again. I am so proud of our kids, so proud.”
Fike’s defense acquitted itself well against Northern Nash despite the absence of three starters. Junior safety Ian West did not see action because of a shoulder injury; junior linebacker Reid Harris was sidelined with a concussion he suffered not related to football; and junior secondary performer Sedarius Williams was not available because of disciplinary reasons.
The Demons’ defense did experience problems in shutting down the quarterback draws of Northern Nash junior Jacob Green.
What was the problem?
"We didn’t have Ian West at safety,” senior linebacker Hunter Cockrell replied.
MORE OF THE SAME
Northern Nash’s offensive efforts against Fike were hampered by nagging penalties. The Knights were penalized 11 times for 83 yards. Five of the infractions were of the 5-yard variety and, on three occasions, Fike’s offense benefited from Northern Nash’s defensive encroachment.
Penalties stalled one march; another infraction offset a Fike penalty and erased a long scoring play. Northern Nash saw another drive bog down after an errant snap from center.
Ironically, the Knights were guilty of similar mistakes in losing their conference opener at home to Hunt. That outcome was especially painful with penalties taking a toll after the Knights owned a first-and-goal at Hunt’s 1-yard line in the closing moments and trailing by seven points.
"It’s frustrating for us,” commented first-year Northern Nash head coach Randy Raper. "And I know it’s frustrating for everybody. But we work on it every single day. It comes down to not being mentally tough.”
It was the final regular season home game for 18 Hunt seniors who were honored before the game.
The 18 players were: Ty Keen, Otis May, Justin Jefferson, Ty’Chius Edwards, Dexter Wright, Tre Spearman, Malik Williams, Kentrell Brown, A.K. Knight, Dwayne Spell, Ervin Speight, Tavon Bynum, Aaron Jackson, Joe Eatman, Rufus Williams, Julian Fuller, Brandon Hinnant and Joseph Hollis.
The group went off in style with a 41-0 pasting of Nash Central in which the Bulldogs gained just 20 yards of total offense and recorded zero first downs.
For Keen, Senior Night provided the running back a chance to fulfill a dream.
After Nash Central punted for the fifth and final time on the last play of the third quarter, the Warriors took over at their 47.
With a running clock not stopping for anything, the Warriors took to the ground with Keen and Knight taking handoff after handoff from quarterback Jacob Williamson.
On third-and-3, Keen pushed through the line and lunged forward for 6 yards and a first down.
On third-and-6, Keen galloped 11 yards. A run that brought the entire Hunt bench on their feet with applause and cheers as the clock passed the 7-minute mark.
Keen took the next three runs for 7 yards, and facing fourth-and-3 from the 18, Williamson went up the middle on a QB sneak for 3 as the clock went under 5 minutes to go.
Knight and Keen got just 8 yards combined the next three rushes, setting up another fourth down with a little over 2 minutes left.
Keen took the handoff and bullied his way for 6 yards and another first at the 5.
Knight got the first crack at a score, going 1 yard before three Nash Central defenders brought him down.
Then with 41 seconds left, Keen took the ball and followed a block to go untouched into the end zone for the game’s final score.
"That was my season goal, personally, to score,” Keen said with a smile. "I wanted to score so bad. I was just glad they put me in and gave me the opportunity.
"It felt great. That was my first varsity touchdown. The line did a good job holding them off, letting me get short yardage every time. We just kept muscling through.”
Keen finished with 11 carries for 45 yards — all on that drive.
"You love it for kids like Ty,” Hinnant said. "And all the other players who saw some extended action who don’t always play a lot. Those kids work just as hard as the starters have and you always come in wanting to get them in.”
Junior linebacker Josh Lucas and senior cornerback Malik Williams wanted to be the one to deliver.
Before the game, Hinnant asked his defense to come up big.
It did with the effort that produced a shutout and allowed no first downs.
But he asked for one other thing.
"Coach said we needed a touchdown today on defense,” Lucas said.
Added Williams: "We all wanted to be the one.”
It appeared Williams would do just that.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder jumped in front of a pass from Nash Central quarterback Tyler Barrow for an easy interception around the Hunt 45 with 6:53 left in the first quarter.
He sped up the middle of the field and was all by himself around the Nash Central 40 when he stopped running.
Why? Because the officials had stopped play.
An inadvertent whistle was the culprit, ending Williams’ hopes of a pick-6.
But the fourth turnover of the night for Nash Central ended up delivering a score.
Lucas picked off Barrow with a little more than 2 minutes left in the third quarter, grabbing the ball with his left hand before switching it to his left en route to a 46-yard return that made it 27-0.
"I just knew nobody was going to outrun me when I caught that ball,” Lucas said.
Williams was one of the first teammates to reach the end zone to celebrate the TD.
"We love to help out the offense,” said Williams. "And Josh always wanted it and I wanted it. We were competing actually, to see who got the first one — and he got it.”
Hinnant said it was business as usual for his secondary.
"It’s the same as it’s been all year,” he said. "They’ve been picking off passes, batting down passes all year. The defensive front gave us a lot of pressure, that kid had to get rid of them in a hurry.”
Senior quarterback Tyquavious Wooten has been a sporadic performer for the SouthWest Edgecombe High varsity football team this season. Wooten is capable of stretches of solid play, but has also been prone to mental mistakes and turnovers.
However, Friday night in a steady rain at North Johnston, Wooten was near-flawless in directing the Cougars to a 35-0 2-A Eastern Plains Conference victory. And Wooten was not bashful in explaining why he stayed away from mistakes.
"We practiced all week with a wet football,” he revealed. "We knew it was going to be hard to execute in the rain, but we had to take care of the football. And I thought we did a good job of taking care of the football.”
SouthWest’s conference clash in the rain at North Johnston last Friday evening unfolded as first-year head coach Jonathan Cobb had hoped.
Cobb’s Cougars took command early and, by the fourth quarter, he was able to turn offensive and defensive action over to reserves and junior varsity call-ups.
SouthWest’s head coach was encouraged that mistakes were limited to one lost fumble and the inability to pounce upon the football when the Panthers attempted — and recovered — an onside kickoff to open the second half. Whether the kicked football traveled the required 10 yards before being touched was an issue.
Cobb credited the error-free performance of his quarterback, Wooten.
"He was a good manager of the game tonight,” Cobb said. "He had some good gains with his feet and didn’t make mistakes.”
Cobb noted his Cougars also overcame adversity in the form of eight penalties for 86 yards.
"We got a lot of penalties,” Wooten agreed, "but we came back and made up for them.”
Winless North Johnston, the loser of 13 straight games, is down to its last shot at avoiding a winless (0-11) season. The assignment is an imposing one — a trip to Washington against a Pam Pack team that has clinched no worse than a share of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference title and has locked up the conference’s No. 1 seed in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
The Panthers played less than inspired on a rainy Senior Night, falling 35-0 to SouthWest Edgecombe. North Johnston has been shut out two consecutive weeks and, in four conference games, has been outscored 181-15.
Has the understandably downtrodden squad lost its enthusiasm for Friday nights?
"I don’t know,” answered second-year head coach Scott Meserve. "And that’s disappointing.
"People keep saying that (the coaching staff) can’t play for them. That really frustrates me.”
SouthWest’s Cobb expressed empathy for the North Johnston situation.
"They’ve struggled,” he said. "Coach Meserve does a good job with what he has to work with. I really feel for them.”
Friday’s rainy home regular-season finale for Beddingfield — the only game contested by a Wilson County team that evening — spelled the final appearance inside Bruins Stadium, barring a home playoff game for 12 seniors as Chavius Collins, Kelvin King, Ajay Williams, Wes Beamon, Hakeem Speight, Steven Wilkins, Polite Swinson, Juan Rodriguez, Matt Webb, Matt Fess, Christian Medeiros and Ezequiel Fuentes were honored prior to the Bruins’ 28-20 2-A Eastern Plains Conference victory over Farmville Central.
The Bruins overcame a pair of early kickoff returns for TDs, and the Beddingfield defense held the run-heavy Jaguars offense to just 15 total yards of offense in the first half.
Beddingfield head coach Tyrone Johnson stressed that with the Bruins’ number situation, no stone can be left unturned in putting potential playmakers on the field.
Thus, junior Jalen Honey saw his first action of the season at wide receiver Friday.
With the Bruins trailing 14-7 exclusively due to poor kick coverage on their first two kickoffs that resulted in TDs, the Beddingfield offense was in business late in the first half after junior Javius Nixon courageously fielded a bounding punt at his own 48 and returned it to the Jaguars’ 22-yard line. Only 16.7 seconds remained.
Once junior quarterback Kavajae Ellis overthrew Williams in the end zone, Honey, a stalwart Beddingfield defender, released down the seam on a second-down play. The junior got open, snared the pass from Ellis in the end zone, and Beddingfield departed for halftime tied at 14 with momentum following Beamon’s PAT. From there, Nixon gave Beddingfield the lead for good to open the third quarter when he broke a 79-yard kickoff return to send the Bruins to a 21-14 lead.
"We hate to tire him out running offense, but he’s a good blocker, he can catch the ball and he’s a great, great defensive player,” Johnson reviewed of Honey. "We have to use him. We don’t have the numbers to spare him right now.”
Beddingfield defenders found themselves well-prepared for a unique offensive presentation from Farmville Central.
After the Jaguars recorded a 22-17 victory in 2012 that snapped a 16-game losing streak, the Bruins were well-schooled in stopping Farmville Central’s run game, borne out of closed formations. Speed sweeps, counters, dives and reverses were to be expected, with the occasional tight end releasing down the middle on dump passes once defenses sell out to stop the run.
Even though Beddingfield allowed 176 yards rushing, 86 yards of that total game on a single run by the Jaguars’ Josh Jones with 7:55 remaining. On a wet night, it was Farmville Central that struggled with ball security, putting the ball on the ground eight times. The Bruins fumbled on three occasions, but lost two.
"I felt like we played good,” Honey said of the defensive effort. "We could have played better, but I felt like we were disciplined as far as knowing what was coming. All that film work we’ve been doing has been working.”
Moreover, a rumbling tight end down the middle never served to hurt Beddingfield. Farmville Central was held to a woefully ineffective 2 for 9 showing through the air for minus-2 yards.
Added Nixon: "Our coach gave us a real good gameplan and we executed it real well.”
What was included within that gameplan?
"Stop the counter and the speed, and no big plays,” Nixon revealed.
Beddingfield is now 6-4 and 3-1 in the EPC and can sew up sole possession of second place in the conference this Friday with a win at SouthWest Edgecombe. The Cougars may not be without the services of physical junior fullback Devontrell Hyman, who is nursing an Achilles injury.
ONE MORE WIN?
A 6-0 start for Southern Nash has devolved, through injuries and other attrition, into a 1-3 mark in Big East play.
However, a potential "get healthy” game before the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs for win No. 8 looms at the end of the conference schedule this week as the Firebirds welcome Nash Central for senior night.
The Nash Central offense has been nothing short of atrocious this season, only mustering one first down in a two-week span. In a 41-0 loss to Hunt last week, the Bulldogs were unable to move the chains at all.
Southern Nash is coming off a 30-14 loss to Rocky Mount where the Firebirds led 14-0 prior to a second-quarter interception return by Rocky Mount that opened the floodgates for 30 consecutive points.