Coastal 3A News
Vikes hunt down Bears
November 5, 2013D H Conley High School
In a heavyweight battle for first place in the Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference, D.H. Conley’s football team matched defending state champion New Bern blow for blow and came out on top in dramatic fashion.
Lifted by a defense that stood tall throughout the second half despite its back against the wall, the Vikings got just enough big plays out of their offense to take a 31-28 statement victory over New Bern.
Conley, which already had defeated crosstown rival J.H. Rose earlier this season, now owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over both the Bears (7-3, 4-1 Eastern Carolina) and the Rampants (9-1, 4-1).
The Vikings can wrap up the top seed out of the Eastern Carolina with a win at South Central on Friday.
“All week (our players) believed,” said Conley coach Brian Paschal, whose team bounced back from a 31-26 loss at Eastern Wayne in its previous game. “We really challenged them and made life pretty tough on them last week, and they responded.
“(This win) gives our program real validity. With all the work we put in, I think this gives us a valid claim to being a solid football program.”
Like it had done for much of the night, Conley’s defense came through with two game-saving stops in the final moments. Trailing 31-28 and facing a fourth-and-10 at Conley’s 30, New Bern went to a reverse, but receiver Theron Noble was stopped a yard short of a first down.
Following another offensive three-and-out for the Vikings (8-2, 4-1), the Bears had an opportunity to take the lead with less than 2 minutes left, but Noble dropped what would have been the go-ahead touchdown in the end zone.
Two plays later, Conley forced New Bern quarterback Mike Hughes into an incomplete pass on fourth down to seal the victory.
The Vikings used a pair of big plays from Maleek Gorham in the second half to build its advantage. After a goal-line stand from the defense, Bam Staton hit Gorham for an electrifying 89-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 24-14 with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Following a New Bern touchdown, a muffed punt by the Bears set up a short field, leading to a 17-yard scamper by Gorham to make it 31-21 with 11:01 remaining.
Noble’s 78-yard return for a score on the ensuing kickoff quickly cut the DHC lead to 31-28, but the Vikings’ defense held the rest of the way.
“Our defense really stepped up,” Paschal said. “Our secondary, which has had some problems all year, really came through.”
Backed by the return of fullback Johnathan Shrock from injury, the Vikings had four players combine for more than 200 yards rushing. Staton led the group with a game-high 94 yards on 10 attempts.
ECU commit Cody Purdie found the end zone twice and accounted for 92 yards of offense, while Hughes finished 14-of-21 with 157 yards passing for New Bern.
Conley overcame an early seven-point deficit on a 37-yard touchdown run from Myles Taylor and a 37-yard field goal by Nate Evans to take a 17-14 lead into halftime.
— Stephen Igoe