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Short fields turn tight county game into a rout

Between Fridays Notebook

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In a game where the offenses weren’t doing much in terms of navigating long fields, Fike High turned a one-possession game entering the fourth quarter into a 31-7 runaway over Beddingfield during the first leg of the Wilson County championship Friday night in Buddy Bedgood Stadium.

The Golden Demons opened the game by taking the first possession and marching 65 yards in 14 plays, consuming 5:42 of the game clock. But that was the longest sustained march the Demons had all night.

Instead, Fike parlayed a bad snap on a Beddingfield punt in the second quarter into a 39-yard march and a 14-0 cushion. While the Bruins were able to halve the margin before halftime and took possession to open the second half, three Beddingfield turnovers — all over the final 24 minutes — turned into 10 Beddingfield points. The Bruins’ final series was ended at the Fike 38, where the Demons pounded the ball to the Beddingfield 6-yard line before kneeling out the remainder of the clock.

Thus, Fike’s scoring drives encompassed 65, 39, 12, 10 and 46 yards. The 12-yard march, set up by a William Kent interception, culminated in a 29-yard field goal from senior placekicker Walker Gliarmis that Fike up 17-7 with 9:59 to play, and the 46-yard “drive” was a one-play toss from Josh Avery to Kavaris Evans for Fike’s final TD.

When the final stats were accumulated, Beddingfield had outgained Fike by a scant 122-113 margin via the pass and 71-63 on the ground. Granted, Fike voluntarily assigned itself a loss of 19 yards rushing via four kneeldowns.

But in a plodding affair, it wasn’t hard to see that turnovers were key in finding a separator for Fike, which completed its third game out of four without a turnover. Only an outlying six-giveaway showing against Kinston serves as Fike’s only loss in its home opener, a 21-18 defeat.

“If you take care of the football and play good special teams and force turnovers, usually it ends up good for you,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said.

“We couldn’t turn it over,” first-year Beddingfield head coach James Ward lamented. “That’s what we haven’t done — we haven’t turned the ball over. And we did turn it over tonight. We threw three interceptions or two interceptions.”

It was two interceptions. Beddingfield’s other giveaway, a fumble when senior quarterback Sean Jones had the ball slip out of his hands while trying to throw, didn’t result in Fike points on the first Beddingfield series of the second half.

THIRD AND NOT LONG ENOUGH

For as well as the Fike defense played in only giving up a single touchdown, Nelson couldn’t help but flashback to a handful of second- and third-and-longs that resulted in Beddingfield first downs.

On plays that involved third and 10-plus for the Beddingfield offense, Fike had the chains moved on its defense on three of four occasions. Beddingfield’s lone scoring drive was aided by two third-and-long conversions, in addition to a second-and-15 personal foul call on Fike that ultimately produced a Bruins first down. Beddingfield senior quarterback Sean Jones made the cumulative effect hurt when he darted in from 1-yard out, allowing the Bruins to creep within the 14-7 halftime score with 4.7 seconds left in the half.

On the Beddingfield touchdown march, Jones hit sophomore running back Jalil Hutcherson for 14 yards on a third-and-13. Three plays later and facing another third and long, Ward dialed up a wheel route to senior running back Marcus Parker down the far sideline. Parker hauled it in, extending the drive with a 16-yard grab down to the Fike 25.

But the most egregious was in the third quarter. As the Bruins drove bullets through their feet with three penalties — an illegal procedure and a pair of holds — to arrive at third and 25 from their own 4-yard line, the Fike defense allowed the conversion anyway. Parker found a soft spot in the Demons coverage in the middle of the field, and Jones hit him for a juggling catch and a 26-yard gain.

Nelson had no trouble at all identifying the number of third-and-long conversions against his defense.

“I think there was three,” he said. “And one of them was third and 30 (actualy 23). We cannot do that. But we didn’t give up a point in the second half, and I thought we were pretty stingy. Getting off the field and getting the offense more snaps is going to help moving forward. But we’re not going to complain about this result. I thought our defense did really well.”

THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF ROAD

Usually when double-digit penalties are assessed to a team, the second number, representing the penalty yardage, encroaches into triple digits.

That wasn’t the case for a besieged Beddingfield team. The Bruins were flagged 13 times for just 84 yards.

Not only was Beddingfield flagged for holds near its own goal line — resulting in half-the-distance penalties — but a litany of procedure and illegal substitution calls served to blister the Bruins when the final penalty bill came due.

It was a carryover from last week’s game at Northern Vance, where Ward’s team was subjected to a blitzkrieg of yellow.

“We had roadblocks and shot ourselves in the foot,” Ward said. “We made mistakes tonight that we haven’t made all season. Substitution problems, we have never had that at all. A couple things went wrong for us. It was very good officiating, a very good crew. Those bonehead mistakes are on us.”

NOTHING AUTOMATIC ABOUT IT

Images of white hats turning on a microphone and blurting out “automatic first down” after certain defensive fouls Saturday and Sunday afternoons does not translate to the glare of Friday night.

The latest example of this at the local high school level came late in the Fike-Beddingfield game after the Bruins were flagged for defensive holding on a 3rd and goal from the 18.

While the ball was advanced to the Beddingfield 8-yard line, Fike, by correctly interpreted rule, was not awarded an automatic first down. Instead, senior quarterback Jaelynn Melton scampered in from eight yards out from the new third-and-goal spot, putting the Demons up 24-7 with 6:43 to play.

A similar situation surfaced in the Hunt-Greenville Rose game last Monday, where Hunt and head coach Keith Byrum elected to keep the eventual winning field goal on the board in overtime and decline a roughing-the-kicker penalty on fourth and goal.

In high school football, first downs are awarded by penalty only if the yardage is sufficient to reach the line to gain. Similarly, pass interference calls under 15 yards and in front of the first down marker do not carry an automatic first down, but rather a spot foul and replaying of the down.

CONTROL CONTROLLABLE

A rash of mistakes and penalties along with suspect offense (66 points in four games) have tormented the Hunt High varsity football team through its first four games.

Are the Warriors, off to a 1-3 start, destined for a season of self-destruction?

“We talk about it every day,” second-year head coach Keith Byrum responded following Monday’s practice. “We have to control the controllable. A lot of our mistakes can be controlled and fixed.

“But we’ve got to fix them every day. If we don’t, there’s no reason they are going to be fixed on Friday night.”

Hunt paid a toll for its mistakes in last Friday night’s 23-6 loss to previously winless New Bern in Warrior Stadium.

BEDDINGFIELD NEXT

Next up is a visit to archrival Beddingfield in round 2 of the Wilson County Championship on Friday.

“It may be a good thing,” Byrum noted of testing the Bruins in coming off a loss. “These boys, at this point and time, shouldn’t need pep talks. These are guys who grew up together and who they’ve played against in the past. We are going to be up (for rival games) regardless of what we did last Friday night. But it would have been nice to be coming off two straight wins.”

Byrum described Monday’s practice as one of the best of the season and hinted of “subtle changes” in readying for the Bruins.

“We had good energy and were focused,” he said.

ONLY 7:30 P.M. START

The starting time for the Hunt-Beddingfield game in Beddingfield’s stadium Friday night is 7:30.

The starting time for Bruins’ home games is 7:30. However, the situation will result in Hunt being involved in a 7:30 start for the only time this season.

Kickoff for the Warriors’ other 10 games is 7.

The Warriors expect to be in good shape physically.

Byrum reported senior tackle Jamison Kyles is bothered by a knee injury but is expected to be cleared later in the week. However, junior back Dionte Alston remains uncertain as the result of a bone bruise suffered in the Hertford County game.

AGAINST BEARS

The Warriors were frustrated early when they could not capitalize on interceptions by seniors Jameson Lucas and Donte Farmer that snuffed the 4-A Bears’ first two possessions.

Byrum acknowledged Hunt had amassed only 20-plus yards total offense until striking for its touchdown on a 70-yard wide screen pass in the closing minutes.

Clearing the way with a leveling block was senior Arnoldo Mochudo.

FIREBIRDS KEEP ON TRUCKIN’

Despite a pair of key injures, Southern Nash has picked up where it left off during the regular season last year as the Firebirds have rolled to four straight wins by a 37-point average margin.

Southern Nash flattened West Johnston 49-0 on Friday night in Benson, outgaining the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference Wildcats by 268 yards.

“I think they’ve played hard. I think for the most part, we’ve played smart so overall I’ve been pleased,” Firebirds head coach Brian Foster said. “I just want it to keep going.”

That success has come, for the most part, without senior cornerback/wide receiver Nadir Thompson, who has verbally committed to Virginia Tech, and senior right guard Abe Rodriguez. Both players exited the week 2 win against Nash Central and haven’t played since. Thompson is out indefinitely while Rodriguez could play Friday against defending state 4-AA champion Wake Forest.

Desmon Vick has filled Thompson’s spot at corner and LaCalvin Sessoms and Zion Pearce-Cameron have alternated to fill the shoes of the 6-foot-2, 306-pound Rodriguez.

“We talk about next man up and playing what you’ve got all the time but sometimes that’s easier said than done, but I’ve been proud of the guys for playing hard,” Foster said.

DYNAMIC DUO

It’s no secret that one reason Southern Nash has been formidable on offense, where the Firebirds are averaging more than 400 yards per game. Senior Kendrick Bell and junior Zonovan Knight have combined for more than 250 yards per game on the ground and have each scored seven touchdowns.

RAMS ON A ROLL

Since an opening loss to South Central, Greene Central has been in a groove in winning its last three games by a combined score of 100-37, including Friday’s 40-21 victory over Eastern Wayne.

Rams head coach Allen Wooten is doing it on the ground and through the air, averaging 184 rushing yards and 222 passing yards.

“We’ve got a lot of depth at receiver this year,” he said. “That gives us pretty good balance.”

Two of the top receivers — seniors Rhaheem Edwards and Torrence Clark — were standouts on the Rams basketball team that reached the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A championship game last winter. In all, eight Rams have caught at least one pass this season, giving plenty of targets for senior quarterback Jackson Batchelor, who has thrown for 839 yards and seven TDs.

But that’s not all, senior Willie Edwards, a three-year starter in the backfield, is averaging 133.5 rushing yards on the ground while scoring a Times readership-area best nine TDs.

“Willie’s having a phenomenal year,” said Wooten, who noted that turnovers, or lack thereof, has played a big role in his team’s offensive success.

“We’re taking care of the football. That’s really the big thing,” he said. “The first night (a 45-27 loss at South Central) we didn’t take care of the football.”

Wooten was happy to report that junior linebacker Brandon Gilbert, Greene Central’s leading tackler last season, will play his first game this season Friday as the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference Rams wrap up nonconference play against ancient rival Farmville Central.

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