It's Wilson Hunt versus Wilson Fike
October 27, 2011North Carolina
By Tom Ham
WILSON - The stakes: The 2011 Wilson County championship, the Big East Conference championship, the Big East’s No. 1 seed in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-AA playoffs, bragging rights for another year and P-R-I-D-E!
All the aforementioned desirables and more will be up for grabs when the storied Hunt-Fike high school varsity football rivalry is renewed Friday evening in Fike’s newly re-lighted Buddy Bedgood Stadium.
The kickoff is scheduled for 7:30. Arrive early — a huge turnout is anticipated.
Title implications are in the mix for the Hunt-Fike clash for the first time since 2004. The Golden Demons seek their first conquest of Hunt since 2008. The Warriors already own this season a 21-0 triumph in a clash that did not count in the conference standings to boost their series advantage to 24-14.
The Warriors not only risk sole possession of the conference lead in the regular-season finale for both rivals but needs a second conquest of the Demons to celebrate their first unbeaten regular season since 1996.
Hunt enters 4-0 in the Big East, while surging Fike has climbed to 4-5 and 3-1, respectively. A win will net the Demons a share of the Big East title along with the Warriors and possibly Nash Central — if victorious at Southern Nash.
The Warriors will clinch the league championship and the league’s top seed in the playoffs — and homefield advantage for perhaps as long they stay alive in the NCHSAA postseason — with a triumph in the 39th meeting. Victories by Fike and Southern Nash will leave the Demons co-champs with their archrival and the No. 1 playoff seed from the Big East. Hunt currently possesses the huge trophy symbolic of county varsity football supremacy and shared last season’s Big East crown with Northern Nash.
“This is how you want in-town rivals to go at it in the final game of the season,” expressed veteran Hunt head coach Randy Raper. “We’re playing for a conference championship and that’s all that really matters.”
Commented first-year Fike head coach Tom Nelson: “I am just so happy for the kids. They’re going to play in front of more people than ever before. It’s going to be a great atmosphere — what high school football is all about. I want them to enjoy it.”
Fike will be playing just its third 2011 game in its stadium, where it has not lost. Close games, however, have become a way of winning for the Warriors, and they’re braced for another stern test against a Demons squad that has won three of its last four games.
Neither head coach feels matching Hunt’s perfect worksheet against Fike’s sub-.500 ledger diminishes the pending excitement throughout the respective campuses and communities.
“We feel like we’re 9-0 with where we’ve come from (1-4 start),” said the exuberant Nelson. “I don’t think anybody knows what our record is.”
The Warriors know, but they voice tremendous respect for their archrival.
“This is just as big as if we were both undefeated,” insisted Raper. “(Hunt’s bid for an undefeated regular season) is just another incentive. No doubt, they’ve had a turnaround season, and they are playing with a lot of confidence.
“No question, Fike is a different football team. But, in the same breath, so are we.”
Nelson, a 1989 Hunt graduate who was part of Raper’s staff at Hunt from 1997-2002, describes the Warriors as “good in all phases of the game — and they have been that way for a long time.
“Hunt has a great tailback (Josh Joyner) and their quarterback (Jacob Page) has been through and started a lot of games. They have a stingy defense and do what you have to do to be successful — block and tackle well.”
Joyner has already exceeded 1,000 yards rushing this season, and the wily Page ranks as the most efficient quarterback in The Wilson Times readership area. D’metrius Dew and Phil Dickens are his favorite targets. Josh Washington, Dexter Wright, Tim Applewhite, Lewis Neal and Vernon Holman anchor a proud Hunt defense.
Senior Cam Avery directs Fike’s triple-option shotgun offense that features the running of Alex Ruffin and Robert Blackston and the receiving of Josh King and Danzell Liles. Chris Phillips, Kenas Jenkins, Shane Tripp, Trae Hudson and Dustin Edwards lead the charge up front. Senior safety Tyler Newman, who suffered a mild concussion last week against Northern Nash, will play.
Both head coaches iterate the importance of blocking, tackling and special-teams play as well as avoiding penalties and turnovers. Special teams rescued the Warriors against Nash Central last week.
“The offense Fike runs has gotten better and their confidence level is sky high,” Raper warned. “They haven’t backed down a bit. We have to play assignment football — we have to execute. Our kids aren’t satisfied; they know we can play better.”
Raper downplays the perfect record and hype, emphasizing: “Our goal is go 1-0 each week. This week, we will try to win a football game over at Fike.”
Where the Demons are at fever pitch.
“I don’t think it’s going to take a Herculean effort (to beat Hunt),” Nelson declared, “but it will take our best effort. We’re all excited, and a lot of people are excited about it. We have to not get caught up in the moment.”