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BETWEEN FRIDAYS NOTEBOOK

Bruins heed warning, block well in win over Vipers

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Before Beddingfield’s home game Thursday night against Vance County, Bruins varsity football coaches warned the running backs: “We are only going to be as good as how well we block for each other.”

The result was a resounding 55-20 Beddingfield win. The Bruins piled up 364 yards rushing and scored seven of their eight touchdowns on running plays.

Head coach James Ward hailed the blocking of backs Jalil Hutcherson, Raekwon Batts, Jacquez Artis, Jaelin Harris and Isaiah Davis. Also drawing praise were tight end Javonte Wooten and offensive linemen Daymon Kardesoglu, Willie Bridgers, Arnold Pender, Cedric Pope and Tacoby Coleman.

“When I looked at the stats and saw that we had 24 first downs and over 300 yards rushing, I thought: ‘We played all right.’ “Ward reviewed in a satisfied tone. “We’re getting a lot better in the offensive line.”

WING-T PROGRESSING

Beddingfield’s offense against Vance County consisted of a mix of wing-T and deep snap schemes. Ward is pleased with the progress of wing-T execution and his players’ excitement about the new look.

“I think the guys enjoy being physical on people,” Ward said.

Certainly encouraging are the strides of senior quarterback Zion Hinnant in his first season under center.

Ward admitted Hinnant was fortunate on a couple of plays, but commended: “He is throwing the ball well; he did pretty good. And all the receivers caught the ball.”

IMPRESSIVE FRESHMAN

Going somewhat unnoticed in Beddingfeld’s 3-0 start is the play of freshman Messiah Woodard.

In situational play, Woodard has already registered six tackles for lost yardage in three games.

“He can run, he’s aggressive and probably plays with more emotion than all of them,” Ward excitedly noted of the freshman. “And he can catch the football, too.”

Ward also reported leading rusher and stalwart secondary defender, junior Jalil Hutcherson, should be available for Friday’s showdown at home against county rival Fike.

Hutcherson was injured on a sideline play late in the third quarter and did not return. Ward said Hutcherson suffered a “stinger” and should be fine for the Fike game.

SCARED TO DEATH

Vance County, in its first year after the merger of Northern Vance and Southern Vance, entered with an 0-2 record, but Beddingfield’s Ward assured he was “scared to death.”

Ward’s Bruins defeated Northern Vance on the road 28-12 the previous season, and that Vance County team, Ward remembers, impressed physically.

Thus, Ward was not surprised when the Vipers received the opening kickoff Thursday night and proceeded to an 8-0 lead. Junior quarterback Samien Burwell orchestrated the drive.

“Knowing the talent they had from those two schools, I knew (Vance County) was going to be tough,” Ward declared.

Burwell rushed for 132 yards on 14 carries, scored a touchdown and passed for the other two.

“He gave us a fit,” Beddingfield’s head coach acknowledged.

WARRIORS ACCEPT DECISION

When not in the course of other administrative duties, Hunt High athletic director Jon Smith can usually be seen on the home sideline taking in the action at Warrior Stadium.

But huddling up with the line judge before the snap of the ball? That’s not something seen every day, but was a necessary step during Monday’s rescheduled game with Greenville Rose.

Already delayed by lightning Friday night, the weather interjected itself again Monday in the fourth quarter with the Rampants leading 21-14. Lightning returned to the area with 10 minutes remaining, prompting Smith to seek out the line judge to inform him of the development. The line judge asked if Smith was the game administrator, which he was.

Therefore, the game was halted after senior quarterback Nathan Lemons took a two-yard loss on first down, setting up Hunt with a 2nd and 12 from its own 39 when play resumed with 9:49 remaining.

However, it never did. With the game past halftime per North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules, the Warriors were handed their first loss with the lightning-shortened result.

“The people who are in that position, they’re in a no-win position,” Hunt head coach Keith Byrum said. “I know that. They’re trying to keep people safe, and that’s their number 1 concern. It’s one of mine too, but at the same time, you always want to give your kids an opportunity. You don’t want your kids to ever feel like you’re quitting on them or not giving them the opportunity to finish on the field. I kind of made it clear that we weren’t going to concede, no matter what. But it’s not completely in our hands, and we have to live with that. We don’t have to be happy about it.”

ONE LESS DAY

Extending the proceedings into Monday means that the Warriors and Rampants will have one less day of prep for Friday contests. While Rose’s next challenge is in no way simple with a home game against 3-A power Havelock, Hunt gets the challenge of New Bern on the road. The Bears (1-2), under the direction of first-year head coach Steve Tapley, coming off a narrow 30-26 victory over West Craven.

“We don’t really get very long to stew over it,” Byrum said. “We’ve got to get over it and get back to work (Tuesday) without sticking our lip out and feeling sorry for ourselves, because New Bern doesn’t feel sorry for us. We are lucky nobody got hurt, so that’s good. We don’t have to worry about trying to nurse people back to health in a short amount of time. We’ve got to have a quick turnaround, and if we do, we feel like we can go to New Bern and compete and play well. Hopefully, finish this week 3-1.”

TAKE THAT TOP OFF

The connection wasn’t without misfires, but Lemons and senior wide receiver Elijah Anderson showed the ability to get behind the Rose defense as play resumed Monday.

Anderson, who hauled in a 60-yard TD pass in a season-opening 34-31 win at Eastern Wayne, finished with two receptions for 60 yards. One was a 26-yard pass over the middle that helped set up a game-tying TD before halftime, and a 34-yard pass from Lemons along the side pushed Hunt inside the Rampants’ 25 before junior running back Tiquez Taylor was stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the Rose 15.

Lemons, with his unconventional delivery, finished 10 of 20 for 96 yards.

“He’s a very fast kid,” Byrum said of Anderson. “If he catches a ball, he has a good chance to outrun the defense.”

FOURTH DOWNS CONVERTED

Before the first delay Friday, the Warriors were hurt with a pair of passing TDs on fourth down. Rose scored on both Friday possessions, using a pair of 18-yard scoring tosses on fourth down from quarterback Grant Jarman to wide receivers Jake Rodgers and Zane Noles. The latter was fourth-and-goal from the 18.

Taylor enjoyed a productive game at one corner for Hunt, recording several pass breakups and a third-quarter interception off the halfback option. However, Hunt was still without the services of senior Isaiah Watson at another corner due to a sprained knee.

Schematic adjustments from Friday to Monday helped improve the Hunt pass coverage — there was only one pass that went for double-digit yards, but the Rampants still produced the winning score with Jarman’s 3-yard toss to Rogers with 4:41 to go in the third quarter.

“I was pleased with how our coverage guys improved from Friday to Monday on what they were doing,” Byrum said. “Because on Friday, we were doing a pretty good job with the run and a pretty good job with the short passing game. The deep passing game hurt us. (Monday), we were basically able to take that away, and they had to do some other things. And, they were fortunate. They got the benefit of some calls.”

FLAG DAY

Of Hunt’s six enforced penalties, three came on the drive that produced the game-winning TD for the Rampants.

Needing to traverse 84 yards, Hunt ceded 45 of the total on a trio of fouls — two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls and a defensive pass interference. One 15-yard penalty came as a result of a shoving match. Byrum was not pleased with the pass interference call that gave Rose a first down on third down, and the third 15-yard flag gave the Rampants a first down when Hunt senior defensive tackle Jordan Lewis gave Jarman an extra shove on the ground, prompting the officials to throw the flag.

Without the foul, Rose would have stared at a 4th-and-13 from the Hunt 46, a likely punting situation.

Instead, the drive continued and Jarman threw his third TD pass six plays later. It would become the game winner after lightning returned.

“I’m not real happy that the bulk of their yardage came off of yellow flags,” Byrum said. “No coach ever agrees with all those yellow flags. I didn’t agree with a lot of them, but I’m not in control of them, either.”

EXECUTION WOES FOR FIKE

For a third straight year, Fike and Kinston have collaborated on a thrilling game that came down to the final minutes. For the second straight year, the Golden Demons came up on the short end of the outcome, losing 48-42 in double overtime Thursday night in Kinston.

It was a particularly frustrating outcome because Fike led by eight points in the fourth quarter and then, in overtime, was kept out of the end zone twice on plays starting inside the 5-yard line.

The 3-A Big East Conference Demons fell to 1-2 while the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference Vikings, who pulled out a 21-18 win in Wilson last season, emerged 3-0.

“We just did a poor job of tackling and communicating some on defense,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said after practice Tuesday. “We scored enough points but we had a pick-6 (interception returned for a TD), that you can’t do. We were just grasping defeat from the jaws of victory because we had the game. But we’re going to learn from it and try to get something positive going.”

Nelson said that the pivotal momentum swing came just before halftime when the Vikings tied the score on a 60-yard TD pass and then recovered the kickoff, only to score again to go ahead.

“They scored twice in less than 30 seconds and we go from up seven to down six at halftime,” Nelson said.

The Demons head coach pointed to a troubling lack of execution that doomed their overtime possession.

“We did enough to win. We’re just doing things to kill ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to play better collectively.”

LINE GELLING

Nelson was happy, however, with Fike’s offensive play, for the most part. Senior quarterback Josh Avery completed 5-of-10 passes for 169 yards, including a 64-yard TD connection to senior Zach Pittman. Meanwhile, senior Cody Cooper-Speight rushed for 120 yards and three TDs and junior Aaron Bancroft added 66 yards and a TD on 19 carries.

“I think we’re going to be fine,” Nelson said of the offense. “I think we have thrown the ball well and I think the line has progressed.”

The line, which was an area of concern in the preseason, has gelled nicely, Nelson said. The unit consists of senior 6-foot-3, 280 pound John Walker and sophomore 6-3, 240-pound James Branch at the tackles, senior 6-2, 300-pound Jahmali Holmes and junior 6-0, 305-pound Marquez Boyette at guards and 6-0, 295-pound junior Zavion Taylor-Best at center.

FIREBIRDS RANKED 7TH

Southern Nash reached as high as No. 6 in The Associated Press 3-A poll last season, earning that spot in the final rankings at the end of the regular season. The Firebirds may get there quicker this season after getting the No. 7 ranking in the initial AP 3-A rankings that were released Tuesday.

Southern Nash (3-0) received 36 total votes, two more than eighth-ranked Kings Mountain. Havelock, the team that ended the Firebirds season in the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs last November, was a unanimous No. 1 pick in the 3-A poll. Jacksonville, the only other team east of Raleigh in the top 10, is third behind Charlotte Catholic.

The other top-ranked teams are 1-A Tarboro, 2-A Lenoir Hibriten and 4-A Wake Forest, the two-time defending state 4-AA champion that will host Southern Nash on Sept. 14.

RUNNING THE LINE

Southern Nash rolled again, blasting host Bunn 55-14 as the Firebirds scored six touchdowns on runs of 24 yards or more and piled up 380 yards on just 23 plays.

Through three games, Southern Nash has made it look easy, averaging nearly 12 yards per play on offense.

“I just hope our guys understand that when it gets down to it, it’s not going to be that easy,” Firebirds head coach Brian Foster said.

A big reason for that has been the legs of senior Zonovan Knight and junior Quinton Cooley, who have combined for 888 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 15.9 yards per carry. However, it’s the offensive line, which had no returning starters from 2017, that has done the job.

“From that standpoint, I’ve been happy because they’re good kids and try hard and I think it means something,” Foster said.

The unit has had “nine or 10 guys” play in each game, he said.

At tight end are Daniel Batchelor, Donovin Thompson and Chris Allen while Dale Batchelor, Braden Wood and Lamont Williams man the tackle spots. Jordan Sam, Zack Baker and Cameron Messer are stationed at guard and Luke Watson and Pedro Vargas are at center.

The depth has given the Firebirds coaches a chance to see the players on film for meaningful action.

STAYING FOCUSED

While the Firebirds have not been seriously tested, Foster knows what’s coming. A date with two-time defending 4-AA champion Wake Forest waits in two weeks and then the Big East schedule, followed by what is hoped to be another crack at the elusive state championship in the NCHSAA playoffs.

So keeping his Firebirds focused is a season-long endeavor for Foster and his assistant coaches.

“I think it’s gotten better,” he said. “I still think we need to enjoy the moment, so to speak. But they’re high school kids and that’s what’s frustrating sometimes, is they think they will have a do-over and you don’t have that time.”

While keeping a group of 50-plus teenagers focused for four months may not be easy, Foster said they are not lacking in one department.

“One thing I should never have to worry about is effort and we haven’t had to worry about that in a long time,” he said.

ONE COOLEY CUSTOMER

Cooley was the epitome of efficiency again on offense again Friday night, gaining 127 yards on just four carries that included scoring runs of 70 and 49 yards.

Not bad for a guy who played mostly on defense last season, earning All-Big East acclaim at outside linebacker. Cooley got in some action on D on Thursday as he made two tackles for loss on four plays.

“He’s pretty efficient on defense, too,” Foster observed.

AGONIZING FINISH

After trailing much of the evening, the SouthWest Edgecombe High varsity football team seized the lead at 15-14 in the fourth quarter on junior Cortezz Jones’ TD carry.

Only five minutes remained. And they proved extremely agonizing for SouthWest.

South Central, now undefeated at 3-0, faced a fourth-down situation with five yards needed for a first down. The Cougars defense allowed the quarterback to scramble for first-down yardage. Moments later, the Falcons hit SouthWest with a big pass that produced a TD.

The Cougars, however, were not finished.

With approximately a minute left, SouthWest, trailing 22-15, owned possession at South Central’s 20-yard line. But a pair of penalties pushed the Cougars back to their 40-yard line. They couldn’t recover.

SouthWest’s defense limited the Falcons to 88 yards total offense in the second half, but 64 of those yards came in their winning march.

CRIPPLING MISTAKES

“Turnovers and penalties killed us,” SouthWest head coach Jonathan Cobb lamented. “We moved the ball all night, had opportunities but didn’t convert. A lot of it was sloppy penalties.

“South Central is a very good football team, very athletic. They challenged us in ways we haven’t been challenged. We just didn’t execute well enough in crucial situations. The outcome of the game certainly could have been different.”

THREW MORE PASSES

SouthWest threw a season-high 16 passes with six completions for 165 yards and no interceptions.

Will the Cougars be more comfortable putting the football into the air in future games?

“We threw a little too much, probably,” Cobb responded. “At times, we had to make plays and we tried to dial up some big plays. We tried everything we had. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t.”

Cobb explains whether SouthWest resorts to the Wishbone running attack or throws the football is “personnel driven.”

“We are doing what we need to do to survive,” he added. “It’s by feel and by circumstance.”

After an off week, the Cougars “jump from the frying pan into the fire” with an assignment against archrival and 1-A superpower Tarboro.

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