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There will be no need for extended introductions at the coin toss Friday night when the opening leg of the 2018 Wilson County championship kicks off at Bruins Stadium with Beddingfield playing host to Fike.
It’s an opportunity for Beddingfield, which is 3-0 for the second straight season under head coach James Ward, to put a bit of substance behind its spotless record to date. The Golden Demons, defending county champions in each of the last two seasons, kicked off a three-game losing streak for the Bruins in this spot last year with a 31-7 victory in Buddy Bedgood Stadium.
But don’t say those four letters together, let alone spell out F-I-K-E in East Wilson. As Ward instilled upon taking the Bruins helm, it’s simply “over there” within the Beddingfield program.
Fike sits at 1-2, most recently dropping a 48-42 overtime game at Kinston where junior Aaron Bancroft was stopped on the Vikings’ 1-yard line on fourth down. Beddingfield, in compiling its 3-0 start, has handily defeated the trio of Oxford Webb, Smithfield-Selma and Vance County — outfits that have produced a combined 0-8 record to date. After this week, the Bruins hit the final two legs of their nonconference schedule by traveling to Hunt — errrr....”out there” — and Jacksonville Northside.
While Ward acknowledges the Demons may be a tougher opponent than what’s been seen so far, he said the first three games haven’t been without challenges. Even in last week’s 55-20 win over Vance County, players and coaches continually referred to the Vipers as “tough.”
“It might,” Ward said of an uptick in competition this week. “We think we’ve seen some good competition so far. (Fike’s) not bad. They’re doing some pretty good stuff. They’re big up front and have a couple of linebackers that fly around to the ball. We’ve got to work. We’ve got to play some Bruin football. Most definitely, we can’t look past them.”
With former Fike head coach and Beddingfield graduate Kim Brown serving as a “special consultant” for Ward’s Bruins, Beddingfield has dabbled in the use of the wing-T to open 2018. It isn’t the sole method of moving the football for the Beddingfield, but behind junior running back Jalil Hutcherson and company, the Bruins have made the transformation from a pass-happy group to one that is content getting hard yards on the ground — whether in closed or open sets.
“If you look at us, we do a lot of zone reads,” Ward said. “You look very similar to Auburn or Clemson and their style of offense. We were running the buck sweep last year, we just didn’t know — and I’ll be honest — we didn’t know all the blocking rules to it. We perfected a little bit more, we go under the center a lot more, and we’ve got backs that can hit it.”
Those running backs include Hutcherson, sophomore Raekwon Batts, junior Jah’quez Artis, freshman Jalen Harris and senior Isiah Davis. Senior quarterback Zion Hinnant is a threat to run and is a maturing passer.
From an injury standpoint, senior Zach Adams remains out with a knee injury for Beddingfield. But the Bruins expect to get junior right tackle Malik Davis back after the missing the last two games, as well as junior Travon Newsome, an expected boost to the Bruins’ secondary as well as the offensive backfield.
“The plan in the preseason was to make a defensive coordinator stay up and make him look at some film,” Ward said. “Try to stop wing-T, try to stop spread, then try to stop the spread wing-T. So he’s got to have his mind made up what he’s going to do.”
Fike will come in without senior safety Tyreon Brown, who was lost for the season after sustaining a broken leg against Kinston.
Junior wide receiver and defensive end Chase Eaton is dealing with a hip injury.
“It’s a big game for our kids just because they know most of those guys,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said. “But once the ball is kicked off, it’s going to be about blocking, tackling and executing.”
As the Demons hope for the same success they enjoyed offensively last week, the defense will attempt to make amends for a masterful performance from Kinston quarterback Kieran Hooker, who accounted for six total TDs on Fike’s defense, raising his season total to 13. Tackling issues and coverage lapses — both correctable errors — hurt the Demons, Nelson said.
“If that’s going to be the case, we’ve got to be able to execute offensively and keep putting the ball in the end zone,” Nelson said of engaging in back-and-forth shootouts. “And I think we did that for the most part — we punted twice.”
Senior Cody Cooper-Speight and Bancroft lead the Fike rushing attack, with Cooper-Speight notching 331 yards and nine TDs. Bancroft has 185 yards and a pair of scores. At quarterback, senior Josh Avery has completed 20 of 42 passes for 386 yards and two TDs. Senior Zach Pittman has emerged as a threat after the catch for Fike at wide receiver, pulling in nine receptions for 294 yards. That translates to over 32.6 yards per grab plus a pair of TDs.
Fike has seen a pair of run-oriented attacks to date in Northern Durham and East Wake, making Beddingfield’s new offensive presentation not out of the ordinary for the Demons’ defensive staff.
“It looks like they’re trying to run the wing-T and a little more ground control with not so much in the air,” Nelson said. “It’s not that we haven’t seen that before, and hopefully we’ll be prepared for it and our kids will be ready to stop it.”
Fike-Beddingfield will serve as The Wilson Times & The Enterprise Game of the Week, with Alton Britt, F.T. Franks and Cole Page on the call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:30 p.m. on wilsontimes.com.
Other area games have Hunt visiting New Bern, Southern Nash playing host to West Johnston, Charles B. Aycock welcoming Goldsboro, North Johnston returning home to oppose North Brunswick and Greene Central venturing out to Eastern Wayne. SouthWest Edgecombe observes its bye this week.
At all sites, kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the exception of Hunt-New Bern, a 7:30 kick.
Hunt can hardly be blamed if it enters Friday’s game at New Bern with a sour taste in its mouth.
The Warriors (2-1) were in the midst of a competitive encounter with Greenville Rose on Monday night when lightning returned to Hunt and ushered both teams off the field. After being delayed Friday night for the first time due to lightning, the decision was made after a 70-minute delay Monday to terminate the game. Since the contest was after halftime due to North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules, Rose, ahead 21-14 at the time, was awarded the win.
That set up a short week for Hunt, which visits a Bears squad currently owning a losing record at 1-2.
Junior Tiquez Taylor is the main ball carrier for Hunt with 358 yards rushing and three TDs.
New Bern, under the direction of first-year head coach Steve Tapley, handed Hunt a 23-6 loss in Warrior Stadium last season. The Bears recorded a 30-26 victory over West Craven last week following pulverizing losses at the hands of Durham Hillside (37-8) and 3-A No. 1 Havelock (77-13) in the first two weeks.
Senior Isaiah Watson, Taylor’s running mate at cornerback, is still a week-to-week proposition with a sprained knee. Senior wide receiver Elijah Anderson is the Warriors’ primary deep threat, while senior Christian Phaby leads Hunt’s defensive line.
RUN FIREBIRDS RUN
Southern Nash will have a real slugfest before it in one week’s time when the Firebirds visit defending 4-AA champion Wake Forest.
But before then, Southern will bid for its third straight 4-0 start to a season when West Johnston comes to Firebirds Stadium.
Senior Zonovan Knight and junior Quinton Cooley pace the Firebirds’ explosive double-wing offense, with Knight accounting for 487 yards and six TDs. Cooley also has six TDs to go along with 401 yards rushing.
Junior quarterback Matt Foster is the area’ most efficient passer, completing 5 of 11 passes for 127 yards and a pair of scores. Foster, the son of head coach Brian Foster, doesn’t have an interception through three games.
West Johnston (1-2) of the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference defeated Harnett Central 31-22 in its opener. The Wildcats have lost two in a row, 41-27 to 4-A Corinth Holders and 55-0 to 3-A Southern Lee.
In Pikeville, Charles B. Aycock can make it 3 for 3 against Wayne County opposition with a win over Goldsboro inside Hardy Talton Stadium. CBA (3-1), which has a 38-35 loss to Greene Central as its only blemish, is led by sophomore quarterback Clay Matthews. Senior Jaylan Robinson is the area’s leading receiver, while junior Taevian Jackson leads the backfield.
Goldsboro (2-1) lost a slim 19-18 decision to Eastern Wayne and holds lopsided wins over Newton Grove Hobbton and Southern Wayne.
Lightning gave Greene Central an abbreviated win last week after North Pitt declined to reschedule a 14-8 contest in the second quarter. Senior A.J. Dupree, a standout on both sides of the football, leads the Rams (2-1) into a battle at Eastern Wayne (1-2).
The Warriors have lost to CBA and Hunt, while sneaking past Goldsboro.
In Kenly, North Johnston bids for a 3-1 start when the Panthers welcome North Brunswick into Ben E. Strifert Stadium.
Sophomore Cameron Privette is the leading ball carrier for North Johnston, with 348 yards and a pair of TDs. Junior quarterback Camden Aycock has thrown for 421 yards and five TDs. Senior Imandre McFarland enters play having caught 11 passes for 250 yards and three TDs.
North Brunswick, a 3-A member of the split 3-A/4-A Mideastern Conference, is winless in three tries. The Scorpions fell to North Johnston in Leland a season ago, 25-22.