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The 48th meeting of high school varsity football archrivals Fike and Hunt in Warrior Stadium on a balmy Thursday night lacked high-profile stakes and a crowd of rivalry standards.
Also lacking were drama, appeal, intensity and, sadly, sportsmanship.
But featured was the last thing Hunt’s Senior Night 28-0 loss to the Golden Demons needed — a postgame altercation.
The customary exchange between players following the game suddenly erupted into a fray between players from both teams. Student resource officers W.S. Drew of Fike and Brandon Hickman of Hunt, along with Lieutenant Terrance Anderson of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department, attempted to separate the players.
“Then, they started coming from everywhere,” Drew noted.
Within seconds, a couple of Fike players, several Hunt players and a couple of Hunt coaches became aware of pepper spray. Victims were treated by on-scene emergency medical personnel.
“I have never seen anything like it in my 25 years (of coaching),” Fike head coach Tom Nelson expressed. “It’s embarrassing.”
Hunt head coach Keith Byrum reported he had been moving in the direction of the Hunt field house and was busy encouraging his players to jog into that direction.
“Then I heard the roar,” Byrum said, “and I took off toward the roar.”
Both head coaches requested their players not be interviewed.
“I really don’t have much to say,” Byrum added. “There’s not much I can say.”
On the field in occasional light rain, the rivalry’s hype dulled early when the Demons struck for a couple of first-quarter TDs.
The few remaining spectators stirred when senior Fike linebacker Garrett Browder scurried across the Warrior Stadium turf with The Wilson Times-sponsored trophy symbolic of the Wilson County Championship claimed by Fike for the second straight year.
The 19th victory against 29 losses in the rivalry enabled Fike to claim fourth place in the 3-A Big East Conference at 2-3 and, at 4-6 overall, the Demons became eligible for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Hunt, which is playoffs eligible, plunged to 1-4 in the conference and to 4-6 in all games. The Warriors are scheduled to travel to 3-A unbeaten Havelock for a rescheduled game next Friday.
The Warriors kept it simple, attempting to exploit the Fike defense up the middle. Attempts to get outside and generate a passing game were futile. Already with about a dozen players sidelined, top offensive threat Tiquez Taylor did not play and at least four more starters left the game with injuries and did not return.
Hunt was without a serious threat and managed just 96 yards total offense.
Fike wound up with 249 yards total offense as senior back Cody Cooper-Speight amassed 141 yards on 19 rushes.
The Demons opened the scoring on a 22-yard interception from junior Michael Rand. Still in the first quarter, the running of Cooper-Speight and junior Aaron Bancroft set up senior quarterback Josh Avery’s TD plunge from less than a yard out.
The cushion became 21-0 in the second quarter when Bancroft found the end zone from 3 yards out on an optiom. The 40-yard march was set up by a fourth-down stop from Fike defenders Jayleen Bullock. Lamont Batts and Robert Harris.
Cooper-Speight’s 22-yard scamper concluded the scoring in the third quarter. Avery kicked the extra point after each TD.
The Demons squandered three other opportunities with Hunt senior Christian Phaby halting a pair with jolting fourth-down hits.
“We played one of our better games defensively,” Nelson reviewed. “We did well on offense as times, but we missed three scoring opportunities.”
“We were a little bit excited to begin with But we scored a couple of times and the air went out of it.”
Unfortunately, the postgame didn’t lack excitement.