Adam Winebarger dominated in the first quarter, and the second belonged to Dylan Church.
Add those efforts together and the end result was a dominating 52-14 victory for their North Wilkes Vikings over visiting West Caldwell Friday night in Hays.
Winebarger scored twice in the opening three minutes of play at Raner Wiles Stadium — once on offense, once on defense — and Church controlled the second period with a trio of bruising runs, including the third touchdown that came with less than a second left on the clock.
Church added a fourth score on North’s first play from scrimmage after halftime, a touchdown that resulted in a 49-7 margin and kept the play clock running through the remainder of the second half as the Vikings improved to 2-0.
“He was hurt all last season,” said North Wilkes Head Coach Monty Chipman of his senior back. “He wasn’t completely healthy at any point, but he’s healthy now. He’s letting his blocks set up and he’s hitting the hole hard.”
Church was also instrumental in springing Winebarger for the game’s first score — on North’s third play from scrimmage. After gaining 17 yards on two carries, Church helped free Winebarger with a block on the outside on a bubble screen.
The pass from Vikings quarterback Cole Chipman hit Winebarger on the left and the senior found the hole, racing 30 yards to the pylon and just getting into the end zone before being forced out by the West Caldwell defense.
The Warriors (0-2) started their first drive well, with two plays resulting in a first down. But on play number three, the Vikings’ defense struck.
Warriors’ signal caller Mark Lopez rolled right to pass and was immediately under pressure from the Vikings’ front four. As Lopez was about to go down he desperately lobbed the football toward the line of scrimmage, where only Winebarger was waiting to haul it in.
After the interception, Winebarger strolled untouched for the 40-yard return, and the Vikings were quickly up 14-0.
West Caldwell (0-2) did score on its next possession, a solid nine-play drive that was helped immensely by a pass interference call against North Wilkes. Lopez found Cameron Beaver in the left flat for a dump-off, and Beaver, a big sophomore fullback, rumbled through a couple of missed tackles to score on the 20-yard reception.
The Warriors’ offense was a point of concern for Chipman and the coaching staff going into the game, and that lone first-half scoring drive showcased some of the reasons why.
“They are a triple-option team, like East Wilkes used to be, and it’s tough to get ready for an offense like that,” said Chipman. “Having to go against East every year did prepare us a little for what to expect.
“Going into the game, we were worried about them scoring first, and getting a lead. They want to get the lead and keep the ball away from you and it’s tough to play an option team from behind.
“Luckily, our kids were ready to play,” added Chipman. “With school starting back and everyone getting back into their routines it wasn’t necessarily the best week of practice, but we came out and played some very good football tonight.”
One specific key was stopping Beaver.
“We couldn’t let him get going,” said Chipman. And despite the fact the sophomore scored both Warriors’ touchdowns, he was mostly held in check.
“The defensive line did a great job. Honestly, both of our lines did their job tonight,” said Chipman. “I thought maybe we let up a little last week against North Forsyth in the second half (the Vikings won that game 35-18), so the challenge tonight was to finish in the second half. And I was very pleased with how we played.”
Church ended up with 184 yards on the ground for an average of eight yards per carry. Cole Chipman was nearly perfect, with his only official incompletion a spike near the end of the first half to stop the clock. Otherwise, he completed eight passes for 147 yards and two scores.
Meanwhile, the Vikings’ defense held the Warriors to 3.5 yards per carry (Beaver only tallied 12 yards), and flummoxed Lopez into two interceptions on five attempts. The Warriors also lost four fumbles Friday.
North Wilkes has its first road game of the season this week, traveling to North Iredell for another nonconference tilt in Olin. The Raiders are 0-2 after losing to Forbush 28-16. North Iredell also dropped its season opener to Wilkes Central.
The Warriors face North Lincoln in their home opener this Friday in Gamewell.
Notes: Kicker Alex Ruvalcaba was perfect on seven point-after attempts and nailed his first field goal try of the year from 19 yards in the fourth quarter. He is perfect on kicks so far this season…West Caldwell has now lost 16 straight games dating back to 2017. The Warriors last won by beating Freedom 44-42 on Oct. 20 of that year…Michael Bell had four catches for 94 yards, and added ten yards on the ground for North Wilkes…As the nonconference season rolls on, only North Wilkes and Elkin remain undefeated this fall from the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference. North Wilkes’ JV team dropped its season opener to West Caldwell 34-20 in Gamewell on Thursday night.