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Early this week football didn’t seem quite as important to many high school football players and coaches in The Wilson Times readership area.
With Wilson County directly in the path of Hurricane Florence, at the time forecast to make land as a Category 4 storm, all games involving area teams were postponed this week. Hunt head coach Keith Byrum said after several of his players said they were needed at home, he decided to cancel Tuesday’s practice.
“I had a player tell me his grandmother needed him to help her move her furniture upstairs to the second floor,” said Byrum.
Hunt’s home game against Beddingfield, scheduled for Friday, had already been moved to Friday, Sept. 28, which was the open week for the Warriors and the Bruins. And with a monster storm looming, Byrum said, “We were not quite so worried about football. We were worried about the storm and all the damage it could do and all the lives it could interrupt. Football’s not as important as everybody being safe.”
Luckily for Wilson and most of the teams in the coverage area, the projected track of Florence shifted to a more southerly route and the storm lost quite a bit of power before making landfall near Wrightsville Beach on Friday morning. So while players and coaches here can hunker down and not have to worry about their safety on a Friday night, the coaches are certainly thinking about their counterparts in places more vulnerable to Florence’s wrath, such as New Bern, where the Warriors played last Friday night. Flooding is pervasive in the New Bern area, as well as all of coastal North Carolina.
“It’s amazing what they’re looking at right now! To think we were just there a week ago,” Byrum said. “I’ve sent some messages to some of the coaches that we know in those areas and some I’ve heard back from and some I haven’t.”
Hunt, along with Beddingfield and Southern Nash, may not be able to play next Friday either. The Warriors are scheduled to play at Havelock, the top-ranked 3-A team in the state, which is just south of New Bern, while the Bruins and Firebirds have games in Jacksonville, also affected by the storm.
“I don’t see us playing,” Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster said of his team’s game at White Oak.
Bruins head coach James Ward said he had spoken to Northside head coach Kendrick Pollock prior to the storm’s arrival this week. He said Pollock asked to move the game to Sept. 28 but Ward told him that date was already taken with the Hunt game.
“I might have to see if I can talk Pollock into coming here if they’re shut down,” Ward said.
For Fike, coming off a 38-34 win at Beddingfield last week, head coach Tom Nelson hopes the interruption will be minimal. The Golden Demons are scheduled to host Erwin Triton next Friday and play at Clayton the following week. The game against the Comets was on the schedule for this week. Both of those opponents are in areas not as severely affected by the storm.
“If we can get back next week, it will not be too bad because we just sort of swapped open weeks,” Nelson said. “Hopefully this thing will get out of here without too much damage and we’ll be able to get on with our lives and get back to it.”
One thing about the unexpected open week, with the possibility of another, that gives some comfort to the coaches is the chance for their teams to heal up.
Foster said in the Firebirds’ 67-14 win against West Johnston on Friday, his team suffered two concussions, two knee injuries and two shoulder injuries.
“Those guys wouldn’t have played (this week), that’s for sure,” he said.
Byrum is delighted with his Warriors’ 3-1 start, especially given they won just three games each of his first two seasons at the helm.
“You think about where we are now compared to a year ago or two years ago,” he said. “We’re playing better ball than two years ago. We’ve got some injuries that are going to give us some challenges.”
Senior defensive tackle Christian Phaby suffered a leg injury in the win at New Bern last week but Byrum said senior athlete Isaiah Watson is due to return from an injury.
Beddingfield lost junior Jalil Hutcherson, who has been offered by ECU, in the Fike game but Ward said he hopes that Hutcherson and senior Zach Adams will be back in action the next time the Bruins take the field.
All coaches agreed that getting back to normal is a welcome goal.
“Or as near to normal as we can,” Byrum said.