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Behind an offense that clicked even when it didn’t and a big defensive stand in the third quarter, the Fike High Golden Demons served notice they are alive and well with a 38-34 varsity football win Friday at Beddingfield.
In handing the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Bruins their first loss in four outings, the 3-A Big East Conference Demons evened their mark at 2-2 and, more importantly, seized the early lead in the Wilson County Championship race. Fike built a 38-14 lead in the third quarter and then hung on as Beddingfield, behind the passing and running of senior quarterback Zion Hinnant, came roaring back before running out of time.
“I hate that the final score was like it was (before Beddingfield’s comeback) but I thought that we did a lot of good stuff offensively tonight,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said. “We moved the ball. I thought our offensive line did a good job and I thought we threw it when we wanted to. We were able to run the ball and dictate tempo.”
Fike’s offense, which had failed to execute at times in its 48-42 overtime loss at Kinston last week, fairly hummed Friday. The Demons piled up 369 offensive yards with senior tailback Cody Cooper-Speight accounting for 128 of their 217 rushing yards. Cooper-Speight scored both of Fike’s first-quarter touchdowns and added a third score in the third quarter.
“(We were) not focusing on assignments,” Bruins defensive coordinator Cisco Payton said. “They really executed well and blocked well in front. That’s a good football team.”
Meanwhile, Fike senior quarterback Josh Avery completed five of his 12 passing attempts for 152 yards. He found Octavius Carpenter on a 58-yard TD in the second quarter after Beddingfield’s Isiah Davis tipped the ball into Carpenter’s hands.
Carpenter assured that he would have made the catch and scored regardless of Davis’ tip but the play stood as a major turning point since it came on a third down-and-10.
“We had a tip that went our way, but we’ll take it,” crowed Avery. “We had receivers make catches, running backs saw the holes and hit it hard, the linemen did a great job blocking for everybody. They made it easier on us.”
Avery ran six times for 20 yards, although he had a long TD run called back because of a holding call. Two plays later, Avery coughed up the ball on a vicious sack by Bruins senior Willie Bridgers. The Bruins were able to turn that into points as they moved the ball 53 yards, helped by a 15-yard personal foul penalty for a late hit on Demons linebacker Aaron Bancroft, in 12 plays with Raekwon Batts scoring the second of his two two-yard TD runs.
But Avery sidetracked whatever momentum Beddingfield hoped to gain on Fike’s next possession. He rambled 11 yards on the first play before hitting Marcus Harris on a 47-yard pass play. When the drive stalled at the 18, Avery salvaged it with a career-long 35-yard field goal to give the Demons a 24-14 lead they took into halftime..
The Bruins, who went into the game without Zach Adams, then lost top running back Jalil Hutchinson with a shoulder injury, tried to play catch-up all night. Cooper-Speight darted 37 yards on the first play from scrimmage and then, two plays later, sailed 31 yards into the end zone.
Beddingfield did tie the score on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in Batts’ two-yard TD dive. But Fike got the ball back and drove 67 yards in 11 plays to take the lead for keeps.
The Bruins were down 24-14 when they received the second-half kickoff but Fike forced three-and-outs on Beddingfield’s first two possessions after halftime. On the third, quarterback Hinnant hooked up with Javonte Wooten on a 22-yard completion but it ended in a fumble that Fike recovered near midfield. That was the Bruins’ biggest gain of the quarter as Fike, behind the play of senior linebacker Jaquan Applewhite, junior linebacker Jacob Powell, junior linebacker Michael Rand and Bancroft, limited Beddingfield to minus-2 yards on the ground in the quarter.
Curtis Bullock’s 29-yard TD run gave the Demons a 38-14 lead with 3:24 to play in the third quarter.
From there, Fike’s Nelson put in his second-team offense.
“We let some other guys play when it started to get ugly,” he said.
However, the Bruins didn’t let it stay ugly as Hinnant engineered three fourth-quarter scoring drives, finishing each with TD runs. He also threw for 190 yards in the final quarter alone and finished with 229 passing yards.
In the end, the Bruins ran out of time and saw the Demons hand them their first loss for the second year in a row.
“We’re making strides,” Nelson said.
Beddingfield will travel to Hunt next Friday, Sept. 14, for the second installment of the county championship series while the Demons host Clayton.