OLIN — After enjoying home cooking in Hays two weeks in a row, North Wilkes traveled to North Iredell for its first away football game of the season.
And while nothing beats staying and playing at home, the Vikings found out life on the road isn’t that bad, either.
Bolstered by a dominating defense and two-headed rushing attack, the Vikings made short work of the North Iredell Raiders, winning 28-6 to remain perfect in 2019.
Dylan Church continued his spectacular early-season run, gaining 214 yards on 36 carries and scoring twice, both in the second half. And teammate Ben Winters had his best ground game of the year, going for 96 yards and one score.
And besides giving up one huge touchdown throw, the Vikings’ defense was solid. North Wilkes held Raiders’ running back Fabian Summers in check (14 carries, 33 yards), sacked quarterback Joe Gaither three times (twice by Trenton Church, once on an intentional grounding call) and notched two turnovers.
“That was a good football team we beat tonight,” said North Wilkes Head Coach Monty Chipman, whose team is now 3-0. “They are well-coached defensively, and play with good technique on both sides of the ball.
“But our defense kept us in it tonight. We made a couple of mistakes early, but played with a mental toughness that helped us rebound. We stopped their run and made them pass, and except for one play that they had in the first half we kept the pressure on them.”
The Vikings’ first two drives produced little. The second possession was promising, but ended prematurely in an interception when quarterback Cole Chipman was picked off by the Raiders’ Logan Brooks.
But the Vikings hit pay dirt with possession number three. After driving 55 yards, the visitors faced a fourth-and-goal from the 15 and Monty Chipman put the ball in the hands of his senior signal-caller to make the play.
Cole Chipman came through, finding Kaleb Buck on the slant from the right side for the scoring pass, giving North Wilkes a 7-0 lead they would not relinquish.
The slant to Buck was a play that the Vikings would take advantage of all night long. Buck finished with 54 yards through the air on three catches, each one beating his man inside and finding the perfectly thrown ball in the middle of the field.
“That play is actually a run/pass option, where Cole has the ability to see what the defense is giving him and then make the right read,” said Monty Chipman. “He reads the safeties and makes the call. When he saw he had the middle of the field, he took it.”
Chipman and Buck actually connected for another touchdown on the same route, but it was called back because of a pre-snap penalty. All told, the combo kept the Raiders’ defense guessing just enough to help create space for Church and Winters, who took advantage.
Winters scored first from the backfield, and after the Raiders’ Joe Gaither had found Brodie Anderson for a huge 71-yard touchdown throw down the right sideline to cut the deficit to 7-6 (North Wilkes blocked the point-after attempt from North Iredell’s Jeremy Burke) to start the second period.
Winters capped a seven-play drive by rushing for an eight-yard score behind a block from Trenton Church. Winters skipped in untouched to help put the visitors up 14-6.
One scary moment for the Vikings’ faithful came two plays prior to the score by Winters. Dylan Church carried the ball for three yards on the left and then appeared to be injured after the play. But Church walked off the field after staying down for a few minutes, and would return to leave his mark in the second half.
After the two teams traded fruitless third quarter possessions, North Iredell had the ball 2nd-and-7 from their own 27. But a poor snap eluded Gaither, and the Vikings’ Winters, playing at linebacker, scooped it up.
Two play later Church scored on a 1-yard run, making it 21-6. And in the fourth quarter Church would find the end zone again, on a six-yarder straight up the gut.
North Wilkes next faces Avery County in Newland Friday in a game that will conclude the Vikings’ pre-conference slate. Avery is 2-1 for the fall after dropping a 44-21 decision to North Buncombe.
North Iredell (0-3) will try and win its first game of 2019 by hosting Lake Norman.
Notes: Chipman also praised the work of his special teams units Friday night. Alex Ruvalcaba converted all four of his extra-points chances to remain perfect on the season and Michael Call punted the ball four times for an average of just under 29 yards-per-kick. “Special teams is one-third of the game, so we spend a lot of time each week practicing it and making sure we’re prepared,” said Chipman…Ruvalcaba did double duty Friday, scoring a goal and recording an assist in the Vikings’ 3-0 win over North Hills Christian at home in soccer before making the trip to Olin…Summers also had a big night for North Iredell. Besides being the Raiders’ main running threat, he was also on the drum line at halftime for the North Iredell marching band…North Wilkes held the Raiders to officially -7 yards of rushing, after factoring in sacks and other negative-yardage plays…Dylan Church and the Raiders’ Hunter Bolden were recognized as offensive and defensive players of the game, respectively, as recognized by North Iredell and the North Carolina Farm Bureau. In JV action, the Vikings evened their record to 1-1 with a 30-0 win over the Raiders.