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This Friday, the lights will illuminate for practice.
Seven days later, it will be all too real.
Hunt High and Fike will take part in their final football scrimmages Friday before kicking off the 2017 campaign on Aug. 17. The Warriors will travel to Clayton to scrimmage Cleveland, while the Golden Demons will again host the Fike Jamboree inside Buddy Bedgood Stadium.
Fike will take part in scrimmage sessions against 3-A D.H. Conley, 2-A James Kenan, 3-A Smithfield-Selma and 2-A Nash Central, the Demons’ former rival in the 3-A Big East Conference. Hunt will again venture to Johnston County to face the Rams for a 6 p.m. scrimmage, but not in a jamboree format as other scheduled teams withdrew.
Even Beddingfield returned to the scrimmage scene this season, albeit at the last minute. The Bruins secured a spot in a scrimmage at Havelock, but heavy rains forced the session to West Craven, where Beddingfield faced off with the Eagles and East Carteret on Wednesday night for its only preseason activity.
Awaiting Fike will be a variety of styles, including the high-octane offense of Conley and heralded all-state quarterback Holton Ahlers. Kenan is expected to bring a physical ground game, while the familiar option attack of Nash Central is still fresh in Fike’s mind from a long association as Big East foes. The Demons open the regular season at Northern Durham next week in the first-ever meeting between the teams.
“That’s why we do it,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said. “So we can get a bunch of looks. There are several different looks, and we get to see how the kids respond to that. We’re just looking to get better and looking for improvement from our first scrimmage. The main thing we want to see is physicality on offense and kids who get after it.”
At Fike, the jamboree starts at 6 p.m. and admission will be $5. Charles B. Aycock, a 3-A member of the split 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference, was originally scheduled to appear before withdrawing.
Hunt, which welcomes the challenge of Eastern Wayne to Warrior Stadium next week, still has an unsolved position battle at quarterback between juniors Nathan Lemons and Andrew Jones. Figuring out how to distribute the football in the backfield still registers as a priority for second-year head coach Keith Byrum and staff. Live action against another set of helmets and shoulder pads will provide important data for Hunt to make its decisions.
“We’ve got questions,” Byrum said. “At specific positions, there’s a lot of position battles. The guys will have a chance to go against somebody else a little bit, and we’ll make some decisions.”
Cleveland is expected to return a potent offense that Hunt has already seen in the preseason through 7-on-7 drills.
“We’re excited,” Byrum said. “But we’re not giving out any trophies. It’s a glorified practice.”
Beddingfield, which opens next Friday at Oxford Webb, was admittedly nervous heading into its first scrimmage activity in several seasons. Previous stretches of bad luck with injuries to key performers made the Bruins nervous to enter scrimmages in the final years of the Tyrone Johnson era. But longtime assistant coach James Ward, who inherited the top job, decided to return Beddingfield to the preseason skirmishes.
Outside of a broken hand to a junior varsity running back, Ward and the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Bruins were pleasantly surprised with their health status upon boarding the bus for home.
“Every time we got into it, we lost one of our better players!” Ward recounted of previous seasons. “But injury wise, we came out all right. We got to see some stuff we needed to look at playing wise.”
While score wasn’t kept during the scrimmages, Ward reported that the Bruins held their own with West Craven, who dropped down to 2-A to join the Eastern Carolina Conference this season. Against the Eagles, Beddingfield fared well in the opening 10-play segment before the goal-line session tilted the edge toward West Craven. Beddingfield’s stable of running backs, projected to be a team strength, only fumbled once.
“When we got into goal line, it was like night and day,” Ward said. “They smacked us in the mouth a little bit. Other than that, I thought we did pretty good. We threw the ball when we needed to throw it. There were a couple of miscues in the offensive line.”
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