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FAYETTEVILLE — There’s a case to be made that the opening kickoff can set the emotional tone for an entire football game.
But the Golden Demons’ inability to stop the constant plodding of Fayetteville Terry Sanford running back Dorian Clark ensured that a 68-yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown by Fike senior Octavius Carpenter wouldn’t be the impetus for an upset at John Daskal Stadium on the campus of Reid Ross Classical School on Thursday night.
The Bulldogs fed their all-time leading rusher in Clark to the tune of 38 carries for 289 yards, and a pair of early leads for the No. 13 seed Demons did not stand up in a 49-20 Fike loss in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs.
Fike, which boosted itself into the postseason with a 38-7 victory over archrival Hunt last Friday, concluded with a 4-8 record. Terry Sanford, co-champion of the 3-A/4-A Patriot Conference and the No. 4 seed in the 3-A bracket, moved to 9-3 and will host another Big East team in No. 5 Rocky Mount next week in the second round.
“They were good up front,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said of the Bulldogs. “Twenty-one (Clark) was a hard runner and shifty, and they were able to control the line of scrimmage. We weren’t able to get them off the field.”
Although Fike received early jolts of momentum in the first quarter, the offense was only on the field for 11 plays in the first half. Once Carpenter caught the short Terry Sanford kickoff to open play, he nestled behind a convoy of blockers on his own sideline and scurried untouched into the end zone. Clark replied with a 1-yard plunge to tie it, but on Fike’s first offensive play, Bullock blasted through a hole and went 59 yards. Sophomore Will Fogleman’s PAT gave Fike a 14-7 lead just 4 minutes, 29 seconds into play.
However, Fike’s defense simply couldn’t generate enough stops. Terry Sanford tied it on Jacob Knight’s 38-yard jump ball to Yates Johnson, where Johnson simply went up and beat Carpenter for the football in one-on-one coverage. Fike went three and out on its next possession, and Clark powered into the end zone for the second of his four TDs.
Trailing 21-14, Fike threatened before halftime by driving inside the 30, but lost possession on a fumble as rain began to fall.
Fike fell behind 35-14 with 11:54 remaining on Knight’s 22-yard strike to Israel Reuben. But Fike had one final gasp, using a 31-yard toss from sophomore Demari Daniels to a wide-open Carpenter to make it 35-20 with 10:41 to go in the game. Fogleman’s PAT was blocked.
But any efforts to get back in it were promptly thwarted by Clark. He dashed 24 yards to put Terry Sanford back up by three TDs at 42-20 with just 7:20 remaining.
Terry Sanford head coach Bruce McClelland conceded perhaps his star running back was utilized too much. Yet it was for a purpose as Fike was worn down in the second half. Terry Sanford was credited with 412 yards rushing.
“We just felt like we were on the threshold of really putting them away and them not wanting to tackle him,” McClelland said. “Our game plan, we felt it all week, was to give 21 the ball and run him.”
Fike careers closed for 20 Fike seniors, including Carpenter, who had two TDs.
“We worked hard all season,” Carpenter said. “It’s sad that it ended like this.”