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Between Fridays Notebook

Flying flags a concern for Fike

Demons stuck with 104 yards in penalties in win

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After a crisply played first half, the penalties piled up in the second half of the Fike High varsity football team’s 30-14 victory against visiting East Wake last Friday night.

The flags flew more frequently after the Golden Demons pulled away from a 10-7 halftime edge to take command at 24-7 early in the fourth quarter.

Fike was penalized on 10 occasions for 104 yards and was whistled for five infractions of 15 yards in the second half. The Demons drew just two penalties the first half. The Warriors wound up with nine penalties for 68 yards.

Sportsmanship became an issue.

“Totally unacceptable,” remarked Fike head coach Tom Nelson. “It’s not how we are coached and not how we do. We are going to be good sports, if anything.

“East Wake was initiating a lot of that, but we’ve got to be better than that.”

DIFFERENT FOES

The Demons kicked off their season with a loss at home to Northern Durham and bounced back with a convincing conquest of East Wake.

Nelson spoke, tongue in cheek, of the 3-A opponents as teams of contrasting styles.

“Northern Durham BARELY threw the football and East Wake DIDN’T throw,” he explained.

Somewhat overlooked was the performance of the Fike defense that allowed but 158 total yards Friday.

Keying the defense were junior Aaron Bancroft with four tackles and five assists; senior Garrett Browder with six assists and two unassisted stops; and senior Jamonta Isler with four tackles and three assists.

Junior Octavius Carpenter responded with an interception that halted an East Wake drive. Junior Marcus Harris came up with a recovery of a teammate’s fumble to keep the Demons’ scoring drive alive in the fourth quarter.

SHAVED A POINT

Fike wound up with a 30-14 win against East Wake — not 30-13 as was reported in Saturday’s Wilson Times sports section.

The Warriors successfully kicked the extra point following their TD in the final minute of the first half and their TD in the final minute of the game.

The Times regrets the error and any resulting inconvenience.

GOT GOING AGAIN

The Demons battled a discouraged feeling after a first-quarter drive ended at East Wake’s 8-yard line and, after driving to East Wake’s 2-yard line, had to settle for a 20-yard field goal in the opening seconds of the second quarter.

“We got down a little,” admitted senior running back Cody Cooper-Speight, “but (head) coach (Tom Nelson) got us going again. It was all right.”

AVOIDS SUSPENSION

Senior wide receive Zach Pittman brought Fike fans to their feet in the fourth quarter against East Wake on Friday night when he hooked up with senior quarterback Josh Avery for a pass catch-and-run touchdown play that covered 89 yards.

Pittman outran an East Wake defender, who was on his heels, the last 40 yards.

However, Pittman’s actions after scoring the TD left the coaching staff concerned that Pittman might have earned himself a seat on the bench for a game — maybe two games.

Pittman celebrated by spiking the football. That gesture ranks near the top of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s “don’t do” list.

The coaching staff was worried Pittman might be suspended but head coach Tom Nelson, also Fike’s athletic director, reported Monday afternoon that Pittman was merely disqualified and is expected to see action when Fike opposes host Kinston on Thursday night.

THROWBACK TENDENCIES

The Hunt High varsity football team exhibited throwback tendencies in last Friday night’s 14-0 win at Hertford County.

The Warriors displayed the willingess to rely upon a ball-control, time-consuming offense and hung their proverbial hat upon a swarming defense that rushed the quarterback and defended the pass well in posting a shutout.

“We’re trying not to be narrow-minded,” expressed third-year head coach Keith Byrum. “We are trying to run it when we ought to be able to run it. Sometimes, we’re going to run it until we get it right.”

However, Byrum emphasizes his Warriors are not doing a good job of capitalizing upon opportunities that have been numerous.

“We had a lot of opportunities in the red zone,” he said, “but we couldn’t slam the ball in there. And right now, we’re not kicking the ball very well.”

Byrum implied that, in the past, Hunt would not have hesitated to attempt a field goal in some situations. But when similar situations now arise, the Warriors are reluctant. The head coach noted the kicking game was at a disadvantage against Hertford County because, potentially, the Warriors’ best kicker was playing soccer.

Consequently, Hunt disdained the field goal and its only extra-point kick attempt missed wide. Yet, Byrum assures he’s committed to place-kicking again being prominent in the offensive arsenal.

THEY LISTENED

During preparation for last Friday’s game at Smithfield-Selma, Beddingfield assistant coaches Stephan Virgil and Billy Woodard worked special teams upon the possible scenarios on field-goal attempts.

Thus, late in the game, the Bruins elected to attempt a 35-yard field goal. The distance was shortened five yards by a Spartans’ offsides penalty.

Bryan Rico’s kick was blocked, but the football rolled forward and, said head coach James Ward, became live. Beddingfield and Smithfield-Selma players promptly pursued the football. Briuns lineman Willie Bridgers pounced upon the football in the Smithfield-Selma end zone. Beddingfield was awarded a touchdown.

“All 11 (Beddingfield) players took off after the football,” Ward proudly described. “They remembered what they had worked on. That’s all you can ask.”

The Bruins prevailed 30-0 to climb to 2-0, but did not play well. Struggles were especially noticeable in the offensive line where two mainstays were not available.

Beddingfield was penalized 14 times for 104 yards. Accepted infractions for the two teams totaled 20.

At halftime, the Bruins owned a 6-0 lead, but didn’t have a first down.

“We were trying to learn the wing-T (offense) and it was sloppy,” Ward reported. “About all the penalties were self-inflcted.”

FIREBIRDS EFFICIENCY

Southern Nash’s offense was pretty efficient in the Firebirds’ 55-20 victory Friday at Nash Central, running 26 total plays for 426 yards. That’s an average of 16.4 yards per play with 391 yards coming on 24 rushes.

“I thought everybody played well. I thought our backs really ran it well,” head coach Brian Foster said. “I think we ran 27 (actually 26) total plays in the game. I can’t remember a time we’ve done that.”

Foster pointed out that of the Firebirds’ 13 first-half offensive plays, six went for touchdowns.

He has been pleased with his offense line that has all new starters, “from tight end to tight end.” Southern Nash is averaging a whopping 10.5 yards per carry in two games. Senior Zonovan Knight, who has committed to N.C. State, leads the way with 332 yards while junior Quinton Cooley has 274.

“If you’re going to be a little off to start with, you’d better have some good backs and we do,” Foster said of his line’s relative lack of experience. “Those guys (the line) have done good but they can do much, much better.”

LOOSE STRINGS

Of some concern to Foster is the fact that Southern Nash has been outscored 36-14 in the fourth quarter. All of those opposition points have come after the Firebirds — who own a 70-12 advantage in the first half — have built insurmountable leads. However, Foster points out that the third- and fourth-string players are expected to perform to standards — if they want to play.

“I want our guys to play but they’ve got to show me they can play,” he said.

RUNNING FOSTER

Junior Matt Foster did something no Firebirds quarterback has done in recent years — run for a TD of more than 50 yards. Foster, the youngest son of the head coach, rambled 54 yards into the end zone for Southern Nash’s second TD of the first quarter.

Matt’s older brother, Zack, manned the position for Southern Nash in 2014 and 2015 and the elder Foster gave the Firebirds a bona fide passing threat, throwing for more than 2,700 yards in his career. Now, the younger sibling brings an ability to turn the corner and go, his father said.

“It just gives you a different look,” Brian Foster said. “He’s a pretty good athlete and if it gives the defense one more thing to worry about, it helps your whole game.”

The main thing, Brian Foster warned, is for his son to avoid turnovers.

“And he’s done that,” the Firebirds veteran coach said.

Matt Foster hasn’t thrown an interception in seven attempts.

PANTHERS LOOK TO SIMPLIFY

With key injuries on the offensive line, backfield, secondary and at wide receiver in Friday’s 48-22 home loss to Rosewood, North Johnston head coach Jon Riba hopes for his team to get as healthy as possible during a short week, which ends with an away game at Hobbton (1-1) this Thursday night.

Riba hopes to focus on curing some of the ailments that are within North Johnston’s control by getting back to basics to help execute at the point of attack.

“We’ve just got to go back to ground zero and focus on what we’ve got to do and clean some stuff up,” said Riba. “We need to simplify some things.”

COUGARS OFFENSE OPENS UP

While the defense has been the big story for SouthWest Edgecombe through two games — the Cougars have yet to allow a point and have scored four defensive TDs — the offense is showing more versatility than it has in years.

In addition to having nine different ball carriers who have averaged 9.9 yards per tote, the Cougars have thrown the ball more so far this year than they have in as many as five or six games in recent seasons. Senior quarterback Jayden Lewis has completed 8-of-18 attempts for 138 yards and a TD. He has thrown two interceptions, both coming in Friday’s 47-0 win over North Edgecombe, but SWE head coach Jonathan Cobb said one was on a bobbled pass.

“I like where we are,” Cobb said. “We’re really spreading the ball around. We’ve got about eight backs, nine including the quarterback, who deserve to carry the ball right now.”

Lewis wasn’t even supposed to be a quarterback but was pressed into duty last year when incumbent senior Tre Williams was injured in the Tarboro Jamboree before the season.

“We made Jayden a quarterback from scratch,” Cobb said.

Now the 5-foot-7, 160-pound Lewis is not only throwing the ball well but has given the Cougars something they haven’t had in quite a while — a legitimate threat to run.

“He’s a dynamic athlete,” Cobb said. “I love the kid. I think he’s just really good in many, many ways.”

DUPREE DOES IT ALL

A.J. Dupree’s resume in his quest to be named both Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference received some substantive beef Friday night against Charles B. Aycock in Hardy Talton Stadium.

His Greene Central Rams were outgained 385-244 and struggled to sustain drives by moving the chains. CBA owned a 17-6 advantage in first downs, and half of Greene Central’s first downs were credited on scoring plays.

But Dupree tilted the game in the Rams’ direction with the aid of three huge plays. None were bigger than the 87-yard interception return that he recorded on a fourth-and-28 in the fourth quarter that led to the game-winning TD and a 38-35 Greene Central win.

“He is a special, special player,” Greene Central head coach Allen Wooten said.

But before that, Dupree flashed his game-changing ability on the offensive side. He took Greene Central’s opening play from scrimmage 61 yards for a score, and on a second-quarter play where it appeared he would be stopped for a short gain, single handedly powered out of two tackles on his way to a 72-yard TD jaunt. Dupree finished with 14 carries for 179 yards to go along with his three total TDs.

“He had two long runs on offense that weren’t exactly the best blocked plays,” Wooten recalled. “A lot of it was him just being a man amongst boys. They had some problems with No. 1 (Taevian Jackson) getting injured. He’s a special back himself. Who knows if he doesn’t cramp and go down. All in all, I think you saw two even football teams, and we were lucky enough to come on top tonight.”

‘I’M JUST STUPID’

There are only 10 or 11 football games guaranteed to a high school program each year. Therefore, the game-changing decisions that don’t work out are magnified.

C.B. Aycock head coach Steve Brooks entered that coaching purgatory after the final whistle Friday night.

Leading 35-30 and facing a fourth-and-28 from the Greene Central 36, Brooks sent out sophomore quarterback Clay Matthews to throw a jump ball towards the end zone. In the best-case scenario, junior Alijuan Moore or senior Jaylan Robinson comes down with it to ensure a two-possession lead late in the game. At worst, the ball is intercepted and works out like a punt. Yet with Dupree waiting in the wings, there would be no such outcome.

Matthews threw it up, and Dupree came down with it. He wiggled his way out of at least one tackle, and didn’t stop until he had completely changed the emotional tenor of the contest 87 yards later.

For a disciple of Steve Spurrier, this one fell on the ‘ol ball coach at Aycock.

“We could have won if the head coach wasn’t so stupid,” Brooks said of his fourth-down play call. “I made a terrible call, and our football team’s good enough to be 2-0. We played a very good football team, and I was trying to throw a punt there. And probably should have just handed the ball to Tae (Jackson) with the night he’s had and let our defense play. I’m just stupid.”

Feeding Jackson wouldn’t have ranked as the worst option, which is what CBA did to open the second half. Jackson touched it 11 times on a 15-play drive that consumed seven minutes of the game clock. As he implored the sideline to “keep feeding me,” Jackson made it pay off with a 5-yard run to make it 35-22 in the third quarter. However, he would later catch cramps and be slowed in the fourth quarter.

“We made too many good plays tonight to lose the football game,” Brooks said. “I hate that it came down to my stupidity, plain and simple. We played good enough to win.”

Compounding the sequence was a Matthews-to-Moore connection that went for 44 yards earlier in the drive. The press box and the CBA band thought that Moore had scored on the play for a two-possession advantage. But Moore was ruled to have stepped out along the sideline at the Rams’ 18-yard line, and Dupree’s pick-six followed six plays later. It was the final exclamation point on 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points from the Rams.

BACK JUDGE BUSY

If the best officiated games are those where the men in stripes aren’t noticed, then the Greene Central-CBA encounter won’t qualify as such. The contest encroached upon the three-hour mark, and the game clock frequently ran in dead ball situations. By the fourth quarter, the clock was not operable, leaving the time to be kept on the field by the back judge in a frantic final few minutes where requests for time remaining flew in from the sideline like auctioneers selling a product.

Both teams were hit with double-digit penalties, with Greene Central flagged 13 times for 104 yards. The Golden Falcons were hit 10 times for 81 yards, including a flag after senior Saquan Connor’s interception to clinch the outcome. However, since it was a foul after the change of possession, the flag was disregarded after a conversation with Brooks, and the game ended.

Both coaches were left with their moments of frustration with the crew. The penalties were not a pleasant subject for Wooten, even in victory.

“It’s a lot easier to deal with all these problems when you get a ‘W’ that’s for sure,” Wooten said.

Michael Held of Johnstonian News contributed to this report.

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