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When Carl Smith accepted the vacant head varsity football coaching position at Beddingfield High, he immediately set about building a “brotherhood” within a Bruins program that had seen its share of adversity before a single regular-season snap could be taken.
There was the loss of a head coach to a bigger program. Early injuries to the backfield put the Bruins down three running backs in the season opener. And on Sept. 2, Beddingfield had to endure another challenge when senior lineman and tight end Malik Davis was shot at a private party in Rocky Mount.
But on Friday night at Buddy Bedgood Stadium, that new brotherhood produced its finest result yet.
Utilizing their new power-I formation and limiting the number of snaps for the Fike offense, the Bruins churned to within one victory of their first outright Wilson County Championship in a decade with a 26-24 victory over the Golden Demons, their first in the series since 2012.
In moving to 3-1 overall, Beddingfield of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference ran for 263 yards and continued the violent, physical running of senior fullback Raekwon Batts. Building on his performance in last week’s win over Smithfield-Selma, Batts finished with 162 yards on 28 carries as the Fike defense had little answer for consistent gains that consumed time and produced first downs.
The Bruins overcame first-half penalties and a blocked punt that set up a Fike field goal. Critical in overcoming a 10-point deficit in the first half was scoring before halftime with Batts on a 2-yard plunge, receiving the second-half kickoff, and embarking on another slow plod that culminated with Batts stampeding up the middle for a 24-yard score. The Bruins led 13-10 with 7:47 left in the third, and didn’t trail again.
“It might not be pretty,” Smith said of the Bruins’ power-I. “It may not work all the time. But we play football the way we play football. And win, lose or draw, we’re going to do it that way.”
Fike (1-3) of the 3-A Big East Conference opened the second quarter on a 1-yard plunge by senior running back Mike Rand to give the hosts a 7-0 lead. Momentum appeared as if it would remain with the Demons after sophomore Tyrell Boykin blocked a Beddingfield punt to set Fike up with first-and-goal from the 7. But the drive stalled, and senior Aaron Bancroft was summoned to make a 21-yard field goal that gave the Demons a 10-0 lead.
Although Fike didn’t commit a turnover, it had its moments of sloppiness offensively in fumbling four times. Beddingfield held Fike to 64 yards rushing, and the potent combo of Bancroft and Rand were rendered irrelevant on the ground.
“We couldn’t get them off the field,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson lamented. “They did a good job of getting four or five at a clip, and then bust one. We just couldn’t get them off the field. No. 20 (Batts) was a load. And I didn’t think we did bad offensively — we punted a couple of times and we didn’t turn it over. But we just couldn’t get the ball back to put some more points on the board.”
On a third-and-12 in the third quarter, Batts broke free for a 24-yard score to put the Bruins up 13-10. Then, a Fike three-and-out led to a poor punt from the Demons that traveled all of seven yards.
Beddingfield took over from the Fike 25, and aided by its first pass completion of the season and a defensive pass interference call, capped the short-field march with a 3-yard TD run from sophomore Keydrin Parker. The PAT snap was botched, leaving Beddingfield up two possessions at 19-10.
However, Fike didn’t go away behind the play of sophomore quarterback Demari Daniels. Facing a fourth-and-8 to open the fourth quarter, Daniels found senior Curtis Bullock on a swing pass out of the backfield for a 25-yard TD. Bancroft added the PAT, and Fike was back within two at 19-17.
Hutcherson, who finished with 79 yards on 19 carries, took the toss sweep to the right to cap Beddingfield’s next possession, scoring from 16 yards out and putting the Bruins up by eight. Smith initially opted to go for the 2-point conversion, but thought better of it and called timeout. Rico was summoned and converted the PAT for a 26-17 lead with 7:34 to play.
But just over one minute later, the Demons applied more pressure to the Bruins. Daniels, who finished 10 of 16 for 174 yards and a pair of TDs, found senior wide receiver Marcaus Harris behind the Beddingfield defense for a 39-yard strike. Bancroft added the PAT, trimming the margin to the final score.
Indeed, Fike would get one final chance to win it. Despite Beddingfield converting a fourth-and-3 deep in its own territory on a four-yard toss play by Hutcherson, Howard intercepted a Harris pass to give the Demons one more chance.
Fike moved it to the Beddingfield 47, but Daniels overshot an open Bullock on a fourth-down wheel route to end Fike’s final opportunity.
“I thought Demari threw the ball well tonight,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what his numbers were, but I thought he threw the ball well. We’ve got to do a better job of reading our run game, but they brought a lot of pressure, and he’ll learn from that.”
Beddingfield took over on downs and exhausted the remaining 95 seconds, setting off a celebration on the visiting sideline.
“It feels good,” Batts said. “I feel like we worked for it throughout the whole summer every day in practice, facing everything we could face. And we just came out and got a ‘dub.’”
With Hunt traveling to Beddingfield next week, a proud Smith made no effort to conceal the pride he felt in his Bruins.
“It’s a lot for my kids,” Smith said. “They needed to know that they’re not forgotten. They need to know that they matter. They need to know they can play with anybody. For a while now, we’ve kind of been looked at where we feel like we’ve been looked at as a stepchild. We are not. We are here, and we’re going to be recognized.”