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As you sleep, Fike High senior inside linebacker Garrett Browder is watching every move you make.
No, it isn’t the tagline to a B-list horror movie. Unless, you’re a head coach or offensive coordinator trying to stay one step ahead of the Golden Demons’ defensive engine.
Despite the struggles of Fike’s defense as an overall unit in 2018, the 5-foot-11 Browder, bound for Davidson College to play baseball, wasn’t fooled often. He was far and away the Demons’ leading tackler, racking up 133 total tackles to include 97 assists and 36 solo stops, averaging 14.8 tackles per contest to go along with two sacks. That output was enough to get the attention of head coaches in the 3-A Big East Conference, who recently proclaimed Browder as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Offensive Player of the Year honors went to Southern Nash senior running back Zonovan Knight, an N.C. State signee and Offensive MVP of the Shrine Bowl, who rambled for 2,054 yards and 26 TDs this season.
The Firebirds, Big East champions, led the way with 12 selections on the team. The remainder were doled out in order of finish,with Rocky Mount (10), Franklinton (eight), Fike (eight), Hunt (six) and Northern Nash (four) following.
As for Browder, he tallied his season’s work in only nine games after missing the Beddingfield game with a concussion. Browder sustained the injury in the first quarter of the Demons’ second game with Kinston and played until the fourth quarter when the symptoms became too much to continue. Fike finished 4-6 and missed out on the playoffs after a postgame incident with archrival Hunt prompted Wilson County Schools to bar both teams from postseason play.
“It was very surprising, just with the way our season went,” Browder said of the honor. “We had some struggles throughout the year, and to be honest with you, the way our season ended, I thought that was the icing on the cake being able to receive anything. Because that was a very unfortunate event with everything that happened. So I was extremely excited, it meant a lot to me and it was very humbling for sure.”
Getting the jump on an opponent’s tendencies was a Browder speciality. As teammates and future opponents slept off the bumps and bruises from a tough Friday night’s work, he was watching game film on Hudl posted by coaches. When Saturday morning came and the next week’s opponent was uploaded, Browder, responsible for relaying defensive signals sent in from the sideline to teammates, immediately switched his focus to the next opponent, soaking in every tendency and tell he could possibly glean.
“Besides the coaches, he probably watched more film than anybody at Fike High School,” Demons head coach Tom Nelson said. “He really studied the opponents, knew their tendencies, and he did a great job with that. He was serious about it, and he wants to do well. He’s going to be prepared to make sure that he has the ability to do well.”
Southern Nash, which finished 10-1 and has won 16 straight Big East games, was represented by junior quarterback Matt Foster, senior inside linebacker Justin Quintavalle, junior defensive back Jason Bland, senior defensive end Kedric Anderson, junior running back Quinton Cooley, Knight, senior lineman Lamont Williams, senior defensive back Darius Edmundson, senior lineman Dale Batchelor, junior lineman Zack Baker, junior lineman Luke Watson and junior fullback Daylon Whitley.
Second-place Rocky Mount (9-2) placed Jaquan Lynch, Tashuan Lawrence, Rodell Bridges, Desmond Barnes, Cedric Baker, Shyheim Battle, Tavaughn Parker, Mario Dupree, John Davis and Daquan Horne.
Third-place Franklinton (8-5), in the first season of head coach Jimmy Williams, had Kendall Harris, Steve Green, Mike Rogers, Mike Smith, Chase Kearney, Sam Buckner, Kenny Cornell and Parker Coats.
Aside from Browder, fourth-place Fike placed junior wide receiver/defensive back Octavius Carpenter, senior quarterback/punter Josh Avery, senior running back Cody Cooper-Speight, senior lineman Jahmali Holmes, senior lineman Robert Harris, junior linebacker Aaron Bancroft and senior wide receiver Zach Pittman.
Hunt (4-7) was represented by senior wide receiver/defensive back Jirhen Strickland, senior lineman Nassem Williams, junior running back/defensive back Tiquez Taylor, senior free safety/linebacker Shyheim Deberry, senior middle linebacker Sal Campbell and senior defensive lineman Christian Phaby.
Northern Nash’s (3-7) four selections were Davontae Wiggins, TaRod Brown, Carresian Whitaker and Kyle Marshall.
Each team was allowed one honorable mention selection, with Southern Nash junior tight end/defensive end Daniel Batchelor, Rocky Mount’s Carrington Garrett, Franklinton’s Devin Patterson, Fike junior wide receiver/defensive back Monta Howard, Hunt junior wide receiver/cornerback Chris Artis and Pernell Griffin of Northern Nash picked as such.