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Sophomore Daniels steps up in QB battle at Fike Jamboree

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Ninth-year head coach Tom Nelson insists “it’s still early,” but the process of settling upon a starting quarterback for the Fike High varsity football team began taking shape in Friday night’s Fike Jamboree scrimmage.

The job may be sophomore Demari Daniels’ to lose after his performance in 10-play sessions against D.H. Conley of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference, 3-A Big East Conference rival Northern Nash and Nash Central of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference.

With effective running, passing and option pitches and fakes, Daniels orchestrated six scoring drives.

Senior Eli Pope and junior Jaiquan King also saw duty under center in a session of some 2 1/2 hours with temperatures in the mid-80s and a gentle but steady breeze stirring. Pope sparkled as a wide receiver.

“We couldn’t have picked a more perfect night,” Nelson declared.

Of Daniels’ performance, Nelson assessed: “He took care of the football and his decision-making was much sharper. I thought he looked pretty darned good.”

Against Conley in the opening session, Daniels tossed a TD pass to Marcaus Harris. Against Nash Central, Daniels connected to Octavius Carpenter, who reached the end zone. Mike Rand also found the end zone after taking a pitch from Daniels. Against Northern Nash, Daniels rifled a TD strike to Pope and bolted up the middle on a TD scamper on a quarterback keeper up the middle.

Fike also got scores from Rand against Conley and Nash Central; and a pass from Pope to Aaron Bancroft and on a Tyrikk Hines run against the Bulldogs.

The Golden Demons tallied twice against Conley, projected to finish third in the 3-A/4-A ECC; scored four times in two sessions against Nash Central; and managed a pair of TD against the Knights.

Conley opened “like a house on fire” but its performance leveled. Nash Central, picked to tie for second in the EPC, struck twice against substitute Fike defenders, who struggled. Northern Nash reached the end zone twice.

Junior Jaylen Williams and senior Deante Watson accounted for the Nash Central TDs. Northern Nash clicked on Thomas Engelking’s pass in the flat to Alston Curtis and on Jay Johnson’s scamper.

The Demons concluded their evening with a goal-line session against the Bulldogs, who participated in their only scrimmage after inclement weather prevailed earlier in the week.

“I thought we did really well,” reported Nash Central head coach Chris Lee. “We were able to run the ball effectively with our traps and counters, and the quarterback threw the ball well.

“Defensively, we’ve got to tackle in space and work on techniques up front and coverage stuff. We finally got to hit somebody different.”

However, Nash Central and Northern Nash did not scrimmage one another because they meet the fourth week of the regular season.

Head coach Andrew Farriss was encouraged with his Northern Nash squad, projected to place third in the Big East.

“We did better on offense and a little better on defense,” Farriss reviewed. “We’re still not there. We showed improvement — which is probably the best thing that could happen.”

Farriss admitted he was reluctant for his Knights to scrimmage Fike, a conference foe.

“But it was good,” he added. “We got good work. We’ve got a chance to be better.”

Nelson reasoned his Demons, forecast to finish fourth in the Big East, were competitive against all three scrimmage foes.

“Conley is good and Northern Nash is better,” he evaluated. “What Nash Central does (in double wing) is difficult if you don’t have time to prepare for it.”

Assistant coaches David Pridgen and Sonny West described Fike’s improved from Monday night at Charles B. Aycock High as “like day and night.” Nelson concurred.

“As a whole, we took care of the football,” Nelson said. “There are still a lot of places we can improve. But I liked the atmosphere, spirit, offensive execution and we were flying around on defense better.

“Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased — with the weather, sportsmanship and competition.”