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KENLY — Especially important for the Charles B. Aycock High and North Johnston varsity football teams was ending a turbulent, weather-plagued 2018 season on a strong note.
If playing all scheduled 48 minutes is the official declaration, neither team accomplished that mission in an occasional mist Friday night on the North Johnston High turf.
With emotions flaring play after play, Charles B. Aycock’s 32-6 nonconference victory was halted by mutual agreement with 3 minutes, 25 seconds remaining. Head coach Steve Brooks of CBA and acting head coach Chris Barnett of the Panthers agreed with the officials’ mention of an option to stop the proceedings.
Barnett said North Johnston head coach Jon Riba was not present because of personnel issues.
“We had to deal with that,” Barnett explained. “But the main thing we wanted to do was prepare our seniors for their final game and send them out on a strong note.
“The officials mentioned (stopping play). A lot of stuff was getting out of hand, and I didn’t know if it would be productive to keep playing.”
Said Brooks: “The officials said the players were losing control and (North Johnston) was ready to stop the game. With everything that has gone on the last two weeks, we thought it was the best thing to do.”
The dominating performance resulted in the third win in the last four games for the 3-A Golden Falcons of the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference. In finishing the regular season 5-6, CBA deemed itself eligible for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs.
“It’s unfortunate the way it ended,” Brooks said, “but we wanted to play this (rescheduled) game. We needed it to get into the playoffs.”
Barnett revealed the Panthers (3-8) talked some about needing the upset to add the playoffs to the conversation.
“But it was more about sending the kids out right and letting them finish strong,” he iterated. “We had to win to even be in the (playoffs) conversation. We were not able to dictate our destiny and a lot of things would have to had gone our way.”
The Falcons burned North Johnston early with a swing pass that resulted in an 80-yard scoring play. The Panthers adjusted and CBA turned to 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior Taevian Jackson, who pounded for 107 yards and three touchdowns on 20 rushes.
The Panthers of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference received the opening kickoff and drove from 45-yard line to the CBA 21 before CBA junior Alijuan Moore quashed the threat with an interception.
North Johnston never mustered another threat despite recovering an onside kickoff after its lone TD. Moore, Jackson, senior Tyler Parrish, junior Seth Shepherd, senior Amir Fuller, sophomore Turner Bass, junior Noah Honrine and sophomore Omarion Tucker (interception) keyed a Falcons’ defensive charge that limited North Johnston to 80 yards total offense.
The defensive performance didn’t surprise Brooks.
“The defense has played lights out the last four weeks,” Brooks noted. “The defense is probably one of the big reasons we have won three of the last four games.”
Slightly over seven minutes had elapsed when Moore hooked up with senior Jaylan Robinson on the 80-yard pass-and-run TD play. Robinson benefited from a crunching block from Shepherd at midfield.
The block was the first of three big-time hits from Shepherd.
“Coach told me to just block — and I blocked,” Shepherd said.
Fuller’s blocked punt in the closing seconds of the opening quarter set up a 12-0 CBA advantage. Jackson plunged the final yard.
CBA quickly retained possession, but Moore was rushed, fumbled and Panthers’ junior Damaris Hicks scooped up the football and zipped 34 yards for the TD to cut CBA’s lead to 12-6.
The recovered onside kickoff went for naught because of a 33-yard loss on a high snap from center.
The Falcons flow 40 yards to a 20-6 halftime margin. Sizable gains from Jackson and Shepherd set up another Jackson 1-yard TD plunge and Jackson’s two-point conversion.
Moore returned to the passing game to set up Jackson’s 8-yard TD burst in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Finally, Moore fired a 40-yard TD pass to senior Tyre Artis, who had slipped far behind the nearest defender.
“We were trying to get on the edge with our speed guys,” Brooks noted. “But they made some changes defensively that we hadn’t seen and their kids played extremely hard. We made adjustments at halftime and took what the defense gave us. We got a good offensive balance from our guys.”
Observed Shepherd: “We played good as a team, but we need to work on our attitude. We had an OK week at practice, but we have been too focused on other things.”
But as Brooks emphasized: “We had to come over here and handle business.”
That mission was completed — with time to spare.