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Extremely hot weather has hampered preparation progress for The Wilson Times readership-area high school varsity football teams this week.
And the observance of Labor Day weekend has resulted in a short practice week and a Thursday night assignment for six of those teams.
Week 3 of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2018 season arrives with Beddingfield, Hunt, Southern Nash and SouthWest Edgecombe attempting to build upon 2-0 starts.
Playing under the lights Thursday will be Beddingfield at home against Vance County, Fike at Kinston, Southern Nash at Bunn, North Johnston at Hobbton, SouthWest Edgecombe at South Central and Eastern Wayne at Charles B. Aycock.
Sticking with their Friday night routine are Hunt in its home opener against Greenville Rose and Greene Central as the host to North Pitt.
All are nonconference tests although CBA is entertaining not only a county rival but a 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference foe. CBA and the Warriors tangle twice this season and Thursday night’s meeting will not be reflected in the conference standings.
FACE MERGED FOE
The Bruins of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference turned back Northern Vance last season to start 3-0. To match that beginning, Beddingfield must defeat Vance County, a merged edition of Northern Vance and Southern Vance that is 0-2 in its first season.
Focus could be a key issue for the Bruins because head coach James Ward anticipates Vance throwing at least 30 passes.
The Bruins, toying with the wing-T scheme, are not throwing nearly as much and, instead, are relying on the 1-2 running punch of junior Jalil Hutcherson, the area’s leading rusher, and bullish sophomore Raekwon Batts, ranked No. 6.
Kinston (2-0) of the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference has been troublesome for Fike of the 3-A Big East Conference the past few seasons, The Vikings pulled out a 21-18 road win last season. Can the Golden Demons expect another difficult test at Kinston?
“Probably so,” head coach Tom Nelson responded. “They are athletic and get after it really well. We will have to be playing good to beat them.
“They are going to spread us out and let their playmakers do their thing. Defensively, they are big up front and attack the football.”
Fike, 1-1, is coming off a 30-14 conquest of 3-A East Wake and, in that victory, found the best way to solve problems in the punting game.
They were not forced to punt after having a pair blocked in the season-opening loss to Northern Durham.
Fike features senior Cody Cooper-Speight, who has run for 211 yards and an area-high six touchdowns. Senior quarterback Josh Avery is not hesitant about throwing the football in the option offense. Senior Zach Pittman is the area’s No. 4-ranked receiver.
“We are going to try and run the football,” Nelson said, “and play-action pass. Defensively, we have to keep them away from big plays.”
Southern Nash, the reigning 3-A Big East Conference king, has already piled up 100-plus points and anticipates another huge offensive night against 2-A Bunn.
The Firebirds lost to graduation an 1,000-yard rusher in Kendrick Bell, but holdover Zonovan Knight and Quinton Cooley are well on their way to reaching the single-season milestone and matching the combo feat of Knight and Bell last season.
In two games, Knight, who has committed to N.C. State University, has racked up 332 yards and three TDs, while Cooley has totaled 274 yards and four TDs.
Not only has SouthWest enacted the mercy rule in both games but has outscored its opposition 101-0 with the defense scoring four TDs.
The Cougars are more of a threat to throw with the combination of senior quarterback Jayden Lewis and junior wide receiver Keishon Porter. The wishbone ground game boasts a stable of capable backs.
On the road, SouthWest seeks a second straight win against 4-A South Central of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference. The Cougars of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference escaped 28-26 last season.
South Central owns closely contested wins against 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference opponents Greene Central and West Craven.
North Johnston’s mission is to simply in quest of its second win against one loss against an 1-A Carolina Conference Hobbton squad that stands 1-1.
PANTHERS, CBA THREATS
The top weapon for the Panthers of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference has been running back Camron Privette with 146 yards and a TD. Camden Aycock has 22 completions in 44 attempts for 240 yards and three TDs. Imandre McFarland ranks No. 2 in receiving with 10 grabs for 166 yards and two TDs.
County rivals CBA and Eastern Wayne each enter 1-1. The Golden Falcons lost to 2-A Greene Central, while Eastern Wayne was defeated by 3-A Hunt.
CBA quarterback Clay Matthews has thrown for 400 yards and three TDS. In completing 32-of-56 attempts, Matthews has tossed four interceptions. His targets include Jaylan Robinson (12 catches for 170 yards and two TDs) and Alijuan Moore (10 receptions for 124 yards and a TD).
Head coach Keith Byrum likes the early-season trend his Hunt team has established.
The Warriors are off to a 2-0 start by virtue of defeating teams that they couldn’t conquer last season. Now, the trend needs to change.
Back in 2017, Hunt’s first of three wins came by a 23-20 margin in overtime against 3-A Greenville Rose of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference. This season, the Rampants have won their first two outings convincingly and are projected as the team to beat in the ECC.
“They look better, they look good,” Byrum acknowledged. “They’re a good program and you expect them to be good every year.
“They like to spread it out and throw when they want to throw. They pretty much try to take what you give them.”
Of the Warriors’ assignment, Byrum emphasizes: “We’ve got to get better at everything we’re doing — especially getting better at finishing drives. We’ve had so many opportunities. We have to be disciplined on defense, but I think we can play well on defense.”
Hunt offers a big-play threat in junior Tiquez Taylor, with 39 carries for 291 yards and three TDs. He also excels in the defensive secondary.
Senior quarterback Nathan Lemons has already thrown for 158 yards and two TDs. Senior Christian Phaby spearheads the offensive and defensive lines. Senior soccer player Kevin Moreno will be available for place-kicking duties this week.
Does a statement win await the Warriors?
“It would be a big one, for sure,” Byrum replied. “But any win is a good win and we will take them all.”
Winless North Pitt (0-2) of the 2-A Eastern Plains must combat Greene Central’s do-it-all senior A.J. Dupree.
In last week’s win at CBA, Dupree rushed for 179 yards on 14 carries, dashed 61 and 72 yards for TDs and returned an interception 87 yards for a TD the proved to be the decisive score.