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Friday night was the last chance for varsity football teams from Fike and Hunt to get right before the lights come on for real.
The Golden Demons hosted their seventh annual Fike Jamboree in Buddy Bedgood Stadium while the Warriors traveled to Cleveland for a scrimmage against the Rams. Both 3-A Big East Conference teams will kick off their seasons next Friday, Aug. 18, so Friday’s scrimmages were dress rehearsals of sorts.
Fike welcomed James Kenan, D.H. Conley, Smithfield-Selma and former Big East rival Nash Central, which moved to the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference. Demons head coach Tom Nelson said each team lined up against one another for four 10-play segments each. He was encouraged with what he saw from his team, especially compared to Wednesday’s scrimmage at James Kenan.
“I thought our physicality was pretty good,” he said. “We wanted to improve on our blocking and tackling a little bit from Wednesday and I thought we did.”
Nelson praised his defensive starting unit, particularly the play of senior ends Jalen Currie and Dangelo Hodge, senior strong-side linebacker Justin Daniels, junior middle linebacker Garrett Browder, senior cornerback Brandon Atkinson and senior safety William Kent.
Offensively, Nelson said the Demons tried to keep it simple.
“We were very vanilla and just tried to run base plays and I thought we did a good job,” he said.
Senior Aaron Jolly and junior Cody Cooper Speight sparkled running the ball along with Daniels and Atkinson. Senior tackle Lewis Pearce anchored the line.
Nelson was also glad to see his two quarterbacks — senior Jaelynn Melton and junior Josh Avery — enjoy solid outings.
“They both did some good stuff,” Nelson said. “Both of them have some stuff to work on but they did good.”
The Fike coach said that while one will be the starter in Friday’s season opener at Northern Durham, both QBs will play.
Overall, it was a good night for the Demons.
“It did not rain. We sold a bunch of tickets,” Nelson said. “It was a success!”
For Hunt head coach Keith Byrum, the best part of the evening was the end. In the 20-minute, game-condition portion, the Warriors converted a Jailyn Walker interception into a Javal Bowens touchdown run with about 30 seconds left. The Warriors’ late TD tied the score at 7-7 and left Byrum feeling good.
“I’m so happy with the way we finished it,” said the Hunt second-year head coach. “That’s one thing we talked about last year.”
Last year, the Warriors went 3-8, their worst record ever, and are anxious to turn things around in 2017.
Byrum said he was pleased with the effort of his starting secondary — cornerbacks Marcus Thomas and Walker and free safety Jadequis Liles — along with outside linebackers Donte Farmer and Jeremy Fuller.
“Our corners and outside backers, they played just about every down. You know, Cleveland likes to throw the ball a lot, too,” Byrum said. “Those five guys, they didn’t hardly come off the field on defense.”
The scrimmage consisted of three sets of 10 plays of offense and 10 plays of defense before moving to the game-condition segment.
“We would move the ball pretty decent but kind of stalled inside the 20,” Byrum said. “They didn’t move the ball on us at all in the 10-play series.”
Byrum praised the rushing of Bowens and Treighjen Tunnell, especially behind the blocking of fullbacks Christian Phaby, Dallas Kemp and Terry Perry.
He was also happy with the play of junior quarterbacks Nathan Lemons and Andrew Jones, who are competing for the starting job.
“I saw both of them stand in the pocket and take some contact and put the ball where it was supposed to be,” Byrum said. “I saw both of them complete some short passes that our receivers took for yardage and some that went downfield.”
The Hunt coach also said he was pleased with the punting of senior DeShawn Jackson, who also plays defensive end.
“Nobody got hurt and a lot of the kids got to play in roles that we hadn’t seen before,” Byrum said. “I’m real anxious to look at the film.”
The Warriors host Eastern Wayne in Friday’s season opener.