Stylistically, the season opener between North Wilkes and North Forsyth Friday night in Hays was a study in contrasts.
And while ultimately the bruising physicality of North Wilkes outperformed the speed of North Forsyth in a 35-18 finale, both squads saw some success in the nonconference affair.
For North Wilkes, Dylan Church proved to be a productive workhorse running back. The senior finished with 205 yards and three touchdowns, and an impressive 5.2 yards-per-carry average. He found holes behind a line that performed well, particularly in the first half.
“We wanted to help our defense out a little by playing a physical style,” said North Wilkes Head Coach Monty Chipman. “We wanted to pound the ball at them and keep it away from their offense. North Forsyth has a lot of athletes, kind of like what you see at Wilkes Central, and if they get out in space they are gone.
“So it was crucial for us to be methodical with the football, not make any mistakes and force them to play from behind.”
While North Wilkes (1-0) relied primarily on Church, North Forsyth (0-1) used the downfield speed of wide receiver Marquez Hurst to hit pay dirt twice. The visitors’ first touchdown came after North Wilkes had scored on its first possession — a slow, steady 11-play drive that ended when quarterback Cole Chipman found Michael Bell open in the back of the end zone.
In response, North Forsyth signal-caller Deshaun Jones hit Hurst with a pretty pass over the top and down the right sideline, enabling his team to cut their deficit to 7-6 after a botched extra-point attempt.
“We had some different looks we wanted to throw (at Hurst),” said Chipman, “and so we were able to make some quick changes when we needed to.
“We put a taller defensive back in Adam Winebarger on him and I think we were able to cover him a little better than at the start. And we put in five DBs in the second half when we knew they needed to throw the ball.”
Hurst ended up with 131 yards receiving and two scores, though the second touchdown came in garbage time with only 36 seconds left in the game and the outcome already decided.
Still, Chipman was “displeased” with his squad in the fourth quarter, which started with his Vikings holding a 28-6 lead.
Part of that displeasure came as a result of a “bad call” Chipman felt he made on offense that resulted in a 51-yard interception return that suddenly made the contest a two-score game.
“That one’s on me,” said Chipman. “We had some people out on the offensive tending to injuries, and we were scrambling to put people in their place. So we had some kids in there who weren’t comfortable running the play.”
North Wilkes did respond well to the single major miscue of the night. The special teams recovered a subsequent onside kick attempt off the foot of North Forsyth’s Jeremiah Howard. The ball landed in the midst of a multi-player scrum, but Caleb Souther was able to wrestle possession out for North Wilkes.
The defense also made an important stop late, holding the visitors to a three-and-out when North Forsyth had a chance to cut the deficit even further. And offensively the Vikings added one more touchdown — a 6-yard scamper from Church that removed all doubt.
Souther ended up as the top receiver for North Wilkes, hauling in four passes for 28 yards. Cole Chipman finished with 67 yards passing and two scores, as he added a touchdown pass to Kaleb Buck late in the second quarter.
Jones finished with 105 yards through the air for North Forsyth. He was replaced in the second half on a few drives by Marque Hall, and Hall ended up with 76 yards of passing, including the last touchdown throw to Hurst.
North Wilkes will face another athletic team this Friday in West Caldwell, again at Raner Wiles Stadium in Hays.
“We’re going to have to get healthy this week,” said Monty Chipman. “We’re going to play another quick team. West Caldwell has some athletes on their roster.”
North Forsyth, which has lost 17 straight games over the course of three seasons, will travel to Pfafftown Friday to face Ronald Reagan. Reagan won last year’s contest 47-7.
Notes: North Wilkes outperformed its opponent on special teams Friday. Alex Ruvalcaba was perfect on point-after attempts for the game, and Michael Call averaged over 30 yards on three punt attempts. The lone glitch was a botched punt attempt early in the first half…On the other hand, North Forsyth lost a fumble on a punt return opportunity, and incurred penalties on point-after tries after its first two touchdowns…North Wilkes only committed three accepted penalties on the night for 12 total yards…Dedric Hickman led North Forsyth in rushing with 60 yards, but saw limited opportunities in the second half…North Forsyth is coached by Jay Blair, in his first season on the sideline for the visitors. Blair played collegiately at East Carolina and in the pros, both for Cincinnati and Cleveland in the NFL and overseas for the Rhein Fire and Amsterdam Admirals. Blair took over for Pete Gilchrist.