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A Fike High varsity football team growing in confidence followed its sharpest all-around performance of the season with a “statement” triumph Friday night before a large homecoming and hall-of-fame weekend crowd.
Coming off last Friday’s convincing road win against Franklinton, the Golden Demons responded with a pressure-packed, entertaining 17-10 3-A Big East Conference conquest of old rival Rocky Mount.
The outcome left the teams deadlocked for second place in the conference at 2-1. Overall, Fike, in avenging a lopsided 2016 loss to the Gryphons, climbed to 6-3. Rocky Mount, the 2015 state 3-A champion and the 3-A runner-up last season, departed 3-6.
Leading 17-7 after three quarters, Fike saw the Gryphons draw closer with a field goal in the opening minute of the last quarter. No cause to celebrate occurred until senior defensive lineman Jalen Currie intercepted a Gryphons screen pass deep in Fike territory with less than a minute remaining.
“We tried to give it away,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson commented. “But we made enough plays at the end of the game to beat a quality team. They are not used to losing and are very proud and very good.”
A Fike victory resulted because the spread offense clicked in the third quarter behind the running of 130-pound junior Cody Cooper-Speight and 185-pound senior Justin Daniels and the definition of a bend-but-not-break defense that yielded 407 yards total offense but only 10 points. The Demons defense responded with a pair of goal-line stands in the first half.
“He finally sat down on the screen,” Nelson described Currie’s clinching interception. “Fortunately, they had a penalty (that nullified a TD on a screen pass) three plays earlier. Then (Currie) got in the way (on the next screen pass) and we were able to pull it out.”
Said Currie of his second 2017 interception: “It was a whole bunch of commotion. I read the quarterback’s eyes and tried to catch it. We were ready to win it but (the interception) stopped them.”
Trailing 7-3 at halftime, Fike marched for TDs its first two second-half possessions.
The first TD drive covered 64 yards and featured the running of Cooper-Speight and Daniels. Daniels slammed the final 7 yards and senior Walker Gliarmis kicked the extra point.
The Demons’ second drive totaled 70 yards — again featuring Cooper-Speight and Daniels and a timely option keeper from senior quarterback Jaelyn Melton. Cooper-Speight twisted the final 12 yards and Walker Gliarmis was again accurate on the PAT kick.
Rocky Mount answered with a drive from its 20-yard line that featured a 30-yard gallop from sophomore Taushaun Lawrence and a 25-yard toss from sophomore quarterback Jaquan Lynch to senior Detrell Revis. However, minor penalties frustrated the Gryphons, who were forced to settle for a 21-yard field goal from junior Saylor Newton.
Fike struck first on Walker Gliarmis’ 36-yard field goal and, with slightly over a minute remaining before intermission, the Gryphons claimed their only lead of 7-3 on Lynch’s 44-yard strike to a wide-open senior Donomesion Brown.
“We did enough to win,” Nelson iterated. “I am proud of our team. I don’t know that many people gave us much of chance to be 6-3.”