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The tone for Fike High’s 38-34 varsity football victory Friday at Beddingfield was set, as they say, early and often by Golden Demons senior running back Cody Cooper-Speight. He dipped, darted and dashed 37 yards on the first play from scrimmage and, two plays later, scooted 31 yards for a touchdown.
Cooper-Speight would go on to run for 128 yards on 19 carries, reaching the end zone twice more to give him 458 yards and 12 TDs on the season.
Not a bad night for the 5-foot-9, 150-pounder who seems to run just as well inside as he does on the outside.
“He’s a tough little guy and the impressive thing about him is that he does run well in between the tackles,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said. “A lot of times he will eventually get outside but he’s going to run where the play is designed and follow his blockers. We’re pretty big up front so I think sometimes he gets lost in there, but he does have really good vision and runs between the tackles well.”
All in all, Fike had a good night running the ball with 217 yards on the ground. Junior Curtis Bullock made a splashy debut with 57 yards on seven carries, his first of the season. Bullock turned a decent gain into a 29-yard touchdown run in the third quarter in which he probably covered more than 60 yards going from one side of the field to the other.
“He’s a junior and hadn’t had a lot of touches yet but he’s worked really hard in practice and he’s quiet and he’s going to get his chance,” Nelson said.
With senior linebacker Garrett Browder still out with a concussion sustained in the game at Kinston on Aug. 30, junior Aaron Bancroft was needed more on defense, giving guys like Bullock and junior Devon Edwards (4 carries for 19 yards) a chance.
“We’ve got some capable guys and they took advantage of the opportunity, so hopefully that’ll get them some more time,” Nelson said.
Aside from Cooper-Speight, Fike’s other big offensive performer was senior quarterback Josh Avery, who threw for 152 yards, including a 58-yard TD completion, and ran for 20 yards.
Avery, who had a 25-yard TD run called back for a holding penalty, completed 5-of-12 passes, although Fike receivers, like their Beddingfield counterparts, dropped a few catchable balls.
Other than fumbling the ball on a sack by Beddingfield’s Willie Bridgers, Avery was efficient in running the Fike offense. However, his best moment may have come on special teams when his field-goal attempt from 35 yards in the second quarter split the uprights with yards to spare.
“He kicks the ball well in practice,” Nelson said. “Friday night, he made all his extra points and that field goal but he did a really good job kicking off, too.”
Indeed, Avery averaged 57 yards on seven kickoffs, including a pair of touchbacks.
Although he didn’t see action until the second half, Demons senior Logan Davis averaged a respectable 29 yards on two punts, despite a Beddingfield player getting a piece of one of them.
“Yeah, that’s a bonus. Our special teams were a lot better Friday night,” Nelson said.
WHAT WORKED; WHAT DIDN’T
Early in the game, Beddingfield’s defense seemed either a step slow or just out of position. Cooper-Speight and Avery had plenty of room to get going as the Bruins tried to quickly adjust. On one Fike play, Avery turned to look for his handoff but the back wasn’t there. Instead of it turning into a quick loss of yardage for Fike, there were no Beddingfield defenders within a few yards so Avery turned it into a 4-yard gain.
“Well, we just tried to adjust to what they were doing and take what they were going to give us,” Nelson said. “In the last several years they’ve played us a couple of different ways so we didn’t exactly know what they were going to do, but I thought we were able to adjust to their lineup and try to use what they were doing against them a little bit. And it worked.
“They were concerned about us getting outside so, with their lineup, they had some more guys outside of our tackles. So we were fortunate to be able to block them up in the middle a little bit and have some success running between our guards. It just worked out.”
Beddingfield head coach James Ward said the preparation was there, if not the execution.
“We were prepared for it,” he said. “I thought we had a good game plan going on but we didn’t come off our reads the way we should have. A couple of times on the pitch man we played the read too slow.”
Ward also blamed poor tackling, especially against Cooper-Speight.
“We were right there at him,” Ward said. “We knew that little guy was hiding behind those big linemen. We were right there but we were missing the tackles.”
The Bruins were already without senior Zach Adams, who was out with a foot injury, when they lost top rusher Jalil Hutcherson to a shoulder injury in the second quarter. Ward said that Hutcherson will be OK and even thought he could play again Friday but was held out for precautionary reasons.
That left 5-foot-10, 220-pound sophomore fullback Raekwon Batts to shoulder the rushing load, along with junior Travon Newsome and freshman Jalen Harris.
The Bruins still finished with 162 yards on the ground with Batts leading the way with 56 yards and a pair of short-yardage TDs.
Perhaps the brightest spot for the Bruins offense was the play of senior quarterback Zion Hinnant, who led Beddingfield’s furious fourth-quarter comeback. The 5-10, 178-pounder ran for three TDs in the final quarter to trim the final margin to four points.
Hinnant, who finished with 53 rushing yards, also completed a season-high 9-of-17 passing attempts for 229 yards with one interception. Not bad for a guy who was thrust into the position during the preseason.
Still, Ward said that Hinnant needs to learn some of the timing that goes into being a passer, even if the Bruins aren’t looking to pass as much as they have in the pass.
“We really don’t work on too much passing,” Ward said. “He did a good job of making plays with his feet but he’s got to let that ball go sooner.”
SUPPORT FROM OBJ
Fike senior Tyreon Brown saw his season come to an end Aug. 30 in the Demons’ 48-42 overtime loss at Kinston when he suffered a broken leg.
Fike assistant coach Sonny West, who coaches Brown in track, couldn’t bear to see Brown despair over the end of his football career. So West figured he’d take a shot in the dark and see if one of the most recognizable names in pro football could help.
West sent an email to the New York Giants media relations office to see if Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could send Brown a card or something.
“Basically, yeah, I just wanted to do something to cheer him up,” West said. “He’s feeling pretty bad right now and I thought he wouldn’t mind getting something from one of the best receivers in the NFL. It turned out better than I hoped for.”
Saturday morning West got a reply from the Giants with a download link to a short video clip of Beckham offering support for Brown. In the clip, which West immediately forwarded to Brown, Beckham tells Brown that he just “wanted to send my love and blessings your way. Prayers up.”
Beckham goes on to say to Brown: “ I know what it’s like to go through some adversity. I know it’s a tough time for you. I know you were ready to get in and do your thing but just know that you can overcome anything if you put your mind to it. So keep it going and we’ll see you soon.”
Despite a promising 3-1 start, the Hunt High varsity football team has been nagged by problems in attempting to kick extra points and field goals.
The Warriors decided to address the issue head-on in their nonconference test at 4-A New Bern on Friday night.
The coaching staff called upon Kevin Moreno, a prolific scorer for the varsity boys soccer team.
Following Hunt’s first touchdown, Moreno trotted onto the field and kicked an accurate extra point.
Head coach Keith Byrum described the conversion “a huge one point.”
Following the second TD, Moreno was again accurate with his kick, prompting Byrum to comment: “That one looked good.”
When Moreno split the uprights following the third TD, Byrum clamored: “That one looked REALLY good!”
Moreno also attempted a field goal in the first half and Byrum described the boot as “just wide.”
TREND TESTED AGAIN
The start to the Warriors’ 2018 season has followed an unique trend. In each game, Hunt has reversed the 2017 outcome against each opponent.
In 2017, Hunt lost to Eastern Wayne, lost to Hertford County, defeated Greenville Rose and lost to New Bern.
The trend will again be tested whenever the Warriors play host to archrival Beddingfield. One of Hunt’s three 2017 wins came against the Bruins by a 28-26 margin.
Hunt is a win away from exceeding its output in each of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Fike (2-2) took the first step toward repeating as the Wilson County champion with its 38-34 nail-biter at Beddingfield (3-1) last Friday evening.
Beddingfield vs. Hunt is up next and the championship will be decided when Fike welcomes Hunt in the regular-season finale.
The outcome also extended the Golden Demons’ advantage in the rivalry to 29-11.
Against Hunt, the Bruins stand 9-33