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Bruins’ Bridgers will have some explaining to do to his girlfriend

Between Fridays Notebook

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Witnesses confirm that star Beddingfield High football player Willie Bridgers tackled his girlfriend Friday night. The incident is not being investigated and no charges are forthcoming.

Hang on now, folks! Don’t get all stirred up. All is well.

The Beddingfield football player is standout senior linebacker/offensive lineman Willie Bridgers.

The girlfriend is senior Charkesta Downing.

Downing is a football player for the North Pitt High varsity team that the Bruins opposed last Friday night.

Her position is running back. She got the call for a pair of rushing attempts in Beddingfield’s 41-13 win. One carry ended abruptly.

“I slammed her,” Bridgers explained with a grin. “I was just pumped up. When she got into the game, I was excited. We had talked about it (via telephone) earlier in the week and I told her that, if she got the ball, I’m going to hit you like any other person. It’s just a game of football.”

Downing, an honor student, was also a member of North Pitt’s homecoming court.

COACH IMPRESSED

First-year North Pitt head coach Greg Watford was not necessarily impressed with Bridgers slamming the Panthers’ female running back but the Beddingfield defensive stalwart’s performance was another story.

“No. 54 (Bridgers) is really good,” Watford expressed.

The Panthers head coach added: “No. 3 (junior Jalil Hutcherson) is special.”

Watford was also high on his 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior defensive end/linebacker/tight end Romus Lee.

“We’re learning,” he said. “I am happy with our young guys; they are buying in.”

QUARTERBACK SITUATION

Junior Avery Huggins learned minutes before Friday night’s game that he would be starting at quarterback. Senior Zion Hinnant saw action elsewhere.

Beddingfield head coach James Ward explained the situation:

“As the head coach and as a Bruin, I have to teach the guys responsibilities other than football. Zion decided to miss practice and that opened the door. You can’t open the door.

“(Huggins) played good ... he played very good. He needed some live action. The job is his to lose.”

HAPPENS EVERY TIME

With slightly over nine minutes remaining, Beddingfield’s William Wilder scooped a North Pitt fumble and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown. The Bruins led 41-0.

Beddingfield merely needed to kick the extra point to claim a 42-0 lead and implement continuous running of the clock — although the time was being kept on the field with the scoreboard clock not operable. Junior Bruins kicking specialist Bryan Rico had kicked 10 consecutive extra points — including five against North Pitt.

Just a mere formality, right?

The snap was delayed until the Bruins could rush an 11th player on the field. Rico’s kick was low and partially blocked. Beddingfield didn’t up its margin to 42 points and, in those final nine minutes, the Panthers salvaged some homecoming solace with a pair of TDs.

Rico was crushed that his streak of PATs ended.

Afterwards, Ward fumed: “We should be in Wilson right now.”

BRIDGERS’ ADVICE

Beddingfield’s first-unit defense shackled North Pitt’s offense to the point that a shutout would have been a just reward.

However, reserves were granted playing time the final quarter and were shelled by the North Pitt offense.

Bridgers understood the situation, but advised: “(The reserves) could work in practice, see what they need to do and, when they mess up, listen to the coaches to find out what they are doing wrong.”

The next test for Beddingfield’s defense is a 2-A Eastern Plains Conference assignment at home against Nash Central on Friday night.

EARLY OPTIMISM

Hunt received the opening kickoff against Rocky Mount and marched, despite penalties, from its 22-yard line to the Gryphons’ 17-yard line. But a fourth-down pass was dropped.

The Warriors nearly reached midfield their second possession before fumbling away the ball. The rest of the way, about the only offense Hunt generated was junior Tiquez Taylor’s 27-yard jaunt early in the third quarter.

“The opening drive had me feeling pretty optimistic,” Hunt head coach Keith Byrum admitted. “As the game unfolded, there were very basic things we wanted to do. Of course, we wanted to score, but we wanted to use the clock and keep them off the field. And we did a good job of holding the ball the first two drives.

“Rocky Mount was very, very efficient. They blocked well and took advantage of opportunities — that’s for sure. They did a good job of mixing the run and pass. They passed more on first down and that kind of stuff disrupted.”

GRYPHONS’ DEFENSE

“Their defense was what we thought they were,” remarked Hunt offensive coach Marcus Johnson of the Gryphons. “They were tough, physical and fly around. We knew they were going to give some things, but we didn’t take advantage enough. It’s back to the drawing board Monday.”

WARRIORS’ INJURIES MOUNT

The drawing board includes dealing with several injuries to key Warriors. In addition to senior defensive tackle Christian Phaby, who exited the game at New Bern on Sept. 7 with a broken leg, Hunt has been without defensive lineman Terry Perry (knee) and wide receiver Elijah Anderson (rib). Both are seniors and both are out indefinitely, although Phaby could return in November if the Warriors are still playing.

The latest blow came in Saturday’s game when senior quarterback Nathan Lemons suffered a broken fibula.

When asked if it was another season-ending injury, Byrum said: “I would think so. He’s got a cast on his foot!”

Other Warriors were banged up Saturday, although it’s not clear if any will miss Friday’s game at Southern Nash.

Byrum said that senior Andrew Jones, who finished Saturday’s game, will be the starting QB going forward with Dalton Garwood, a junior who was the jayvee starter last season, is the backup.

“We’re lucky we’ve got Andrew who started more than half the season last year,” Byrum said. “We’ve got some experience there. It’s not like we’re having to teach somebody something brand new.”

Still, Byrum can only hope the injury bug is done biting the Warriors, who are in contention for a state playoff berth for the first time in his three seasons as head coach.

“We’re due for something good!” he said.

CONTINUOUS CLOCK

With four minutes left in the third quarter and Rocky Mount leading 42-0, the Warrior Stadium clock operator was instructed to stop the clock only for timeouts and injuries.

Head coaches Byrum of Hunt and Jason Battle of Rocky Mount voiced no complaints.

“It’s the rule and you’ve got to follow the rules,” Battle reasoned. “It shortens the game and it’s in place so that the score doesn’t get run up.”

Staying with the ground attack and providing reserves with playing time, the Gryhons scored once with the clock running continuously.

“It is what it is,” commented Byrum. “When there’s a big score discrepancy, it’s there to keep the score from getting any worse and to keep people from getting hurt. We were having some issues with that.

“I understand why it’s in place, but it’s something you don’t ever want to experience.”

LOST TRACK

In the hustle and bustle of managing the chaos that is a high school football game, head coaches can be excused if they don’t recall every last detail or blade of grass once the final seconds tick off the clock.

But both Fike High’s Tom Nelson and Franklinton’s Jimmy Williams had to get confirmation of the Golden Demons’ lead before Franklinton used 29 unanswered points to rally and stun Fike with a 37-36 victory. It was the Demons’ third straight loss, and with the downtime from Hurricane Florence thrown into the mix, Fike hasn’t won a game in well over a month.

With eight minutes and a single second left in the third quarter, the Demons lead 36-8 on a seven-yard touchdown run by Fike senior running back Cody Cooper-Speight, his fourth of the night.

The ensuing events that followed left both men at a loss. Especially Nelson, who initially struggled to offer any explanation for what he witnessed.

“You had 36 to eight?” Nelson asked.

Williams, who found the words a little easier to come by, didn’t realize the four-possession mountain his team had to overcome.

“Was it 36 to eight?” Williams inquired.

Indeed, the Franklinton offense executed — or the Fike defense allowed, depending on one’s perspective — on four consecutive second-half possessions, allowing the improbable comeback to take place.

The clincher came on an 89-yard slant route from Franklinton quarterback Kenneth Cornell to Lye’shon Parker, the latter catching the ball and outracing the Demons to the end zone despite pass interference at the spot of the catch by Fike.

The 15-yard penalty, per high school rules, was assessed on the kickoff.

Fike aside, what changed for the Red Rams in the second half?

“I’ll be honest with you,” Williams said. “We made very few adjustments. It was about our effort. We weren’t in school (Friday) and I didn’t think they were ready to play. We made too many mistakes in the first half. We talked about cleaning it up. We did move around our defense a little bit, and their option game is so tough and they read it so well, we just simplified everything at halftime. Luckily we had the homecoming halftime, so it was a 20-minute gap.”

Cornell’s ability to extend plays flustered Fike’s battered defense in the second half, including a pair of key third-down conversion throws on the drive that cut it to 36-30 with 8:10 remaining.

(Cornell) had some really good late RPO (run-pass option) throws off some run fakes that were huge for us,” Williams said.

OPTION GIVETH, TAKETH AWAY

When it’s at its best, the Demons’ “spread them out to run it” approach puts extreme stress on opposing defensive ends. Senior quarterback Josh Avery can keep it or pitch it to the elusive Cooper-Speight for a big gain with the edge secured.

But improper depth or a bad pitch? Those things are drive killers. One such errant pitch robbed the Demons of a chance to rescue itself in the fourth quarter.

With momentum gushing towards the Red Rams at 36-30, the Demons got a quality kickoff return that allowed them to set up shop at the Franklinton 47-yard line with 8:02 remaining. Even a field goal would reestablish a two-possession lead.

Avery converted a third down with his legs. Junior Curtis Bullock added a four-yard run to move the chains on second down, and the clock moved forward.

But facing a second-and-9 from the Franklinton 24, Avery scampered around the edge. Instead of keeping it, he pitched to Cooper-Speight. The pitch was high and errant, scurrying out of bounds for a loss of eight.

Fike was now in an untenable third-and-17 with 3:13 remaining. An incomplete pass brought up fourth down, and with a field-goal try not in the realm of reality, Nelson declined to take a chance in long yardage and sent the punt team out.

Avery pooched it to the 11, but Franklinton’s game-winner came two plays later. Parker, who scored the game-tying TD before the extra point won it, had gotten behind the Fike defense on the first-down play, only to drop the deep pass.

“We turned it over and had an interception,” Nelson said of Fike’s forgettable second half. “Then we had trouble sustaining drives, and I thought we were going to run the clock out, then we daggone pitch it backwards on the ground.”

In the midst of four straight scoring drives from the Red Rams, Fike fanned the flames in the second half with an Avery interception and an ineffective three-and-out series. Both led to touchdowns. Also looming large, given the final score, were a pair of missed extra points by the Demons.

THE GOOD BEFORE THE BAD

Although “Franklinton 37, Fike 36” is the score that will live in the record book, the Golden Demons gave the appearance of a well-oiled machine through 2 1/2 quarters of play — making the sudden change all the more inconceivable.

Avery connected on his first seven passing attempts, including a pair of deep passes to junior Octavius Carpenter that helped set up points on the Demons’ first two possessions. Junior Marcaus Harris hauled in a 30-yard pass that helped set up a third Fike touchdown in as many drives.

To open the third quarter, Fike’s defense and special teams contributed to what, by all accounts, should have been a runaway. Junior Aaron Bancroft, senior Zach Pittman and senior Garrett Browder surrounded the Franklinton punter in the third quarter on a designed punt block, with Pittman getting a piece of the ball and driving it back. That set up Cooper-Speight’s third TD run, and a Browder interception on the next series led to another Cooper-Speight plunge. Just like that, Fike was up 36-8, which leads a bit of credence to a Nelson theory.

“We’re not a bad football team,” Nelson said. “But we are just finding ways to lose instead of win. It’s disheartening. It is disheartening.”

FIREBIRDS STILL 5TH

Southern Nash’s postponed game at Northern Nash on Friday (moved to Nov. 9) didn’t hurt the Firebirds in the minds of voters in this week’s Associated Press high school football poll for North Carolina. Southern Nash, as has been the case each of the other three times this season the Firebirds either didn’t play or didn’t finish a game, didn’t drop in the 3-A rankings. The Firebirds (5-0) remained No. 5, behind top-ranked Havelock (6-0), No. 2 Jacksonville (5-0), No. 3 Charlotte Catholic (7-1) and No. 4 Gastonia Hunter Huss (8-0). Jacksonville jumped over Charlotte Catholic this week.

Northwest Cabarrus (8-0) entered the 3-A rankings at No. 10 while Rocky Mount (6-0), the Firebirds’ top threat in the Big East, earned 10 votes to land just outside the top 10.

The other three polls showed no change in the top four in each with 4-A Wake Forest, 2-A Lenoir Hibriten and 1-A Tarboro holding onto their respective No. 1 rankings.

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