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Wednesday night football out of necessity drew no complaints from the Fike High varsity football team.
When avoiding mistakes, the Golden Demons, in their home opener, were all but unstoppable in knocking Kinston of the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference from the unbeaten ranks by a 35-21 margin on the humid evening.
The nonconference clash was moved to Wednesday because of the prospects of Hurricane Dorian leaving playing conditions unplayable Thursday or Friday.
Fike of the 3-A Big East Conference claimed its first win after two losses, while the Vikings, the preseason pick to win their conference, plunged to 2-1.
“Playing on Wednesday night — and winning — is better than losing,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said tongue-in-cheek.
A fumbled punt reception, a blocked punt and a 69-yard pass play either led to or produced Kinston’s three TDs.
The Demons never led until striking first in the second half for a 21-14 margin. Fike finally took command on senior back Curtis Bullock’s scamper with 67 seconds remaining.
Behind the blocking of 6-foot-2, 315-pound senior Marquez Boyette; 6-2, 310-pound senior Zavion Taylor-Best; 5-11, 220-pound senior Khaism Lee; 6-1, 255-pound senior Xavier Ivery; 6-3, 265-pound junior James Branch; 6-2, 260-pound junior Lamont Batts and junior Jahmel McNeal, the Demons amassed 292 yards total offense as compared to 186 yards for the Vikings.
Bullock rolled up 104 yards on 15 rushes, while senior Mike Rand chipped in with 89 yards on nine carries. Bullock and Rand each scored two TDs.
Senior Mike Rand, senior Jacob Powell, senior Aaron Bancroft and junior Jayleen Bullock led a Fike defense that forced five turnovers — four interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“The offensive line, for the most part, did awesome,” Nelson reviewed. “Overall, I thought we dominated the line of scrimmage. We did some good stuff with the ball.
“I like the way we fought. Our conditioning was good. Kinston had players cramping up and lying all over the field.”
Powell’s interception at midfield set up Fike’s TD that produced a 14-14 tie in the closing moments of the first half.
Sophomore quarterback Demari Daniels promptly hit Carpenter for 17 yards, and running of Rand, Daniels and Bullock set up 2-yard TD burst with just 13.6 seconds remaining before intermission. Bancroft, despite being hobbled by a knee injury, kicked the second of five extra points in as many tries.
Fike received the second-half kickoff and marched 53 yards to a 21-14 cushion. Daniels and Carpenter clicked for 14 yards before Carpenter took a pitch and danced in from six yards out.
The cushion became 28-14 with eight minutes showing after senior Donovan Sanders’ fumble recovery. After Bullock scooped up his teammate’s fumble on first down, Rand found a gaping hole in the middle and galloped 17 yards for the TD.
Suddenly, Fike found itself dealing with more adversity.
The Vikings answered 24 seconds later on back-up quarterback Ja’Lique Rouse’s 69-yard pass-and-run TD to senior Khari Pitts. Pitts’ jaunt was aided by poor Fike tackling.
But the Vikings trailed only 28-21 with 7:36 still left. Kinston quickly threatened again, but Fike freshman El Avent intercepted.
Forced to punt and backed inside its 10-yard line, Fike had to call upon Daniels to punt with Bancroft, normally the punter, unavailable. Daniels responded with a 40-yard boot.
Avent’s aerial theft set up the clinching TD on Bullock’s 34-yard scamper with 1:07 to go.
Following the kickoff, the Demons sealed the deal with sacks from Lee and junior Jadarius Williams.
Powell wound up with two of the interceptions.
“They kept going trips,” Powell explained, “and were trying to get the extra safety and corner to bump back. We did what we were asked to do and executed. The three-man front helped us as well.”
Fike weathered a mistake-prone first half. The Vikings owned a 7-0 lead with less than two minutes elapsed when a Demons player muffed the punt reception. Two plays later, sophomore Calvin Holloway thundered 46 yards for the TD.
Kinston claimed a 14-7 edge after senior Shykel Harvey-Grady knifed in to block Bancroft’s punt and rambled 40 yards to Fike’s 1-yard line. Senior Will London plunged in from there.
A Fike turning point was stopping a Kinston drive at its 16-yard line on Jayleen Bullock’s fourth-down stop and trudging 84 yards for a 7-7 tie. Rand hit up the middle and zipped 43 yards for the TD.
“They were 2-0,” Nelson mentioned of Kinston. “They have a good football team and good athletes. They always play us a tight game (Fike lost 48-42 in overtime last season). At the end of the day, we were happy to get a win. We needed a win.”
Added Powell: “This team has been through so much. This means a whole lot for not just the team but for our fans. And it’s not going to stop here.”
Fike is scheduled to welcome archrival Beddingfield at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.