Bruins slop to 23-12 win over Jaguars in playoff opener

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Not a night for fair-weather high school football fans. And they didn’t show up.

But Beddingfield High played on.

Before maybe 100 onlookers, the Bruins, tri-champions from the Eastern Plains Conference and the No. 4 seed among 16 East Region qualifiers, slopped to a 23-12 victory against Farmville Central in the opening round of the North Carolina High School Athletsic Association 2-A playoffs on a misty, chilly Thursday evening in Bruins Stadium.

The third consecutive win and the second this season against conference rival Farmville Central vaulted Beddingfield’s record to 8-4 and to a second-round home date against the winner of Friday night’s Wallace-Rose Hill/Ayden-Grifton game. The No. 13-seeded Jaguars, 42-21 losers to the Bruins during the regular seasnon, ended their injury-filled season at 5-6.

The light precipitation, the chilly temperatures, the wet footballs and the soaked, churned playing surface provided numerous opportunities for turnovers.

However, only one occurred, And that miscue, an interception that Beddingfield junior Zion Hinnant returned 54 yards for a touchdown midway through the final quarter, all but clinched the extension of Beddingfield’s season after exiting in the first round last season.

“We are glad to have tonight behind us,” assured first-year Beddingfield head coach James Ward. “I can still see a little bit of green (turf). It was not supposed to be that hard. But Farmville Central is a pride team and we knew they would leave it all out there on the field. They did.

“We’ve had exceptional weather this season and, for the first time playing with a wet ball, I thought we did a good job of taking care of the ball. The wet field negated our speed a little bit.”

The Bruins’ running game sputtered against a huge Farmville Central defensive line, but the gritty Jaguars were crippled by Beddingfield’s huge pass plays.

“Maybe we need to play in the rain every night,” Ward joked. “We connected on more passes than we have in a long time.”

Hinnant’s interception and Jose Cabrera’s kicked extra point staked Beddingfield to a 23-6 margin with three minutes, 57 seconds remaining.

However, finishing is seldom easy for the Bruins.

The Jaguars returned the ensuing kickoff to Beddingfield’s 46-yard line, and a 39-yard halfback pass from junior Jaden Johnson to freshman Dontavious Short set up Johnson’s 8-yard TD burst with 2:16 remaining.

Beddingfield senior Mitchell McCoy not only stopped the two-point try but recovered the onside kickoff.

McCoy emerged a mainstay in a rugged defense that was anchored by junior Tacoby Coleman, junior Zach Adams,senior Marcus Parker and junior Willie Bridgers.

“The conditions were worse than I thought they would be,” Coleman contended. “It was a challenge moving from sideline to sideline, But we practiced all week in sloppy conditions, and that came into play.”

Coleman praised his big-bodied “buddies” up front. The “beef” was needed as junior 6-foot-2, 239 pound NCAA Division I prospect Keziah Everett and 6-9, 335-pound senior Alvin Grizzard, said Jaguars head coach Scott Gardner, were cleared to play earlier in the day.

“That’s Farmville Central!” Ward exclaimed with a laugh.”At one time, I saw everybody out there playing for them.”

After moving the football effectively from the outset, Beddingfield seized a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter on Cabrera’s personal-long 36-yard field goal. The Bruins kept the drive alive by twice converting fourth downs.

Farmville Central attacked through the air to answer, with junior quarterback Jay Leavelle hooking up with senior Bryan Reid on a 31-yard TD play.

But after McCoy returned the ensuing kickoff  25 yards to the Farmville Central 41-yard line, Beddingfield came back back to seize a 10-6 halftime lead on senior quarterback Sean Jones’ 45-yard strike to sophomore Jalil Hutcherson and Cabrera’s PAT.

The Bruins were stopped inches from the goal line on fourth down in the closing moments of the third quarter. After missing a chance for a fumble recovery, Beddingfield retained possession at the Jaguars’ 44-yard line and upped their lead to 16-6 when junior Daymon Kardesoglu’s block sprung Parker for a 21-yard TD gallop. Hutcherson bolted 24 yards on the previous play.

“We played hard,” reviewed the Jaguars’ Gardner. “Their speed got us a little at the end. They have great speed. They were physical up front and kind of wore us down.

“We gave up one pass (Jones’ TD toss to Hutcherson) and that was the changer. Then, playing from behind made it tosugh.”

Coleman expected a tougher test in the rematch.“We were able to keep ourselves composed and came home with a win,” he declared. “It’s one more step to the state championship.”