Bull­dogs lock up top seed in East

NC runs the clock on the Buc­ca­neers, who are elim­i­nated from play­off con­tention

Sunday Star - - HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL - By AY­MAN ALAM aalam@star­dem.com

North Caro­line 41 Kent Is­land 6

The North Caro­line High foot­ball team locked up home field through­out the up­com­ing Class 2A East Re­gion play­offs with Fri­day evening’s 41-6 vic­tory over Kent Is­land at Andy Schipul Sta­dium.

The Bay­side Con­fer­ence’s lone un­beaten team at 9-0, the Bull­dogs led the Buc­ca­neers, 28-0, at half­time, and even­tu­ally ran the clock. Though it doesn’t elim­i­nate the st­ing of a crush­ing, firstround play­off loss suf­fered to Kent Is­land in 2017, it does clear an­other hur­dle on the road back to the post­sea­son.

The 33-29, East semi­fi­nal de­feat still weighed on the re­turn­ing play­ers, and the team’s work is hardly fin­ished.

“It wasn’t go­ing to change last year,” North Caro­line head coach James McCormick said via a tele­phone in­ter­view Satur­day af­ter­noon. “But it was a big game. You can’t change it, I un­der­stand. It’s not end-all, beall, but there was a lit­tle bit of pay­back this week. You have to be sharp go­ing into the play­offs, our guys un­der­stand that. As we get close to the play­offs, you want to sharpen things up.”

Se­nior Will Man­ship scored on a 67-yard, catc­hand-run from class­mate and quar­ter­back Casey Byrd on the sec­ond play of the game, and Man­ship fol­lowed by con­vert­ing the point-af­ter touch­down, part of a 5-for-6 night on ex­tra points. A 22yard TD run from se­nior Joey Bild­stein made it 14-0 mid­way through the first quar­ter.

Caro­line pushed the lead to 21-0 near the end of the open­ing pe­riod, when ju­nior de­fen­sive end Carl­ton John­son reg­is­tered a strip-sack­fum­ble, and ju­nior Ken­dron Way­man scooped the loose ball and re­turned it 27 yards for the score.

“The game plan was to be ready for a tough game,” McCormick said. “Our kids were go­ing to fight and scratch and claw and come to play. Kent Is­land has a his­tory of suc­cess and we had to have a great game plan com­ing in.”

Man­ship added a 54-yard touch­down carry be­fore half­time, and a 32-yard rush from ju­nior Mon­trese Deshields trig­gered the run­ning clock with 9 min­utes, 23 sec­onds left in the third quar­ter. Se­nior Savion Blake’s 3-yard run in the third capped scor­ing for the visi­tors.

The Bull­dogs have now set their sights on home field all the way into the 2A state fi­nal, a goal they can fur­ther so­lid­ify by win­ning their Week 10 matchup with county ri­val Colonel Richard­son. De­feat­ing Colonel for the Su­per­in­ten­dent’s Cup will also mean the third 10-0 reg­u­lar sea­son for McCormick in the last four years.

“It’s a ri­valr y game, and it’s a big game for us,” McCormick said. “We’re still try­ing to get home field through­out the play­offs, and if we get a win, we have a chance, make peo­ple come to us in­stead of go­ing to them.”

“Our guys un­der­stand

when you get to the play­offs, the games get tougher,” McCormick added. “You’ve got to com­pete ev­ery game.”

For Kent Is­land, which fell to 4-5, a 1-yard touch­down run by se­nior Styles Wil­son

in the fourth ac­counted for the only score. The Buc­ca­neers’ play­off chances were al­ready dim head­ing in, but now they are elim­i­nated, end­ing a string of 10 straight 2A East post­sea­son ap­pear­ances.

Fresh­man quar­ter­back Matthew Burn­side sat for pre­cau­tion­ary rea­sons af­ter suf­fer­ing a neck in­jury last week against Eas­ton,

leav­ing sopho­more run­ning back Ke’juan John­son to take most of the snaps di­rectly. Head coach Damian Fer­rag­amo said he ex­pects Burn­side will be out there for the Week 10, Chesapeake Cup bat­tle with Queen Anne’s County.

With the Lions (4-5) also elim­i­nated from post­sea­son con­tention, Fri­day’s game will al­low the vic­tor to fin­ish

with a .500 mark. While that goal is less than ideal for the Bucs — who have lost five in a row af­ter start­ing 4-0 — the game still holds great mean­ing for the se­niors suit­ing up in pads com­pet­i­tively for the fi­nal time.

“Whether you’re 9-0 or 0-9, this is the last chance for a lot of kids, who will never again in their lives play foot­ball,” Fer­rag­amo said via a

tele­phone in­ter­view Satur­day morn­ing. “Ev­ery game in high school is im­por­tant, and when it’s the last time you do it, it adds a lit­tle bit more to it that counts. Hop­ing our se­niors un­der­stand it, come out and have no re­grets about the game.

“It’s been dif­fi­cult,” Fer­rag­amo said of strug­gling in the sec­ond half of the sea­son. “Ev­ery in­jury is

mag­ni­fied be­cause we don’t have a 43-man ros­ter like in years past, get that depth, ev­ery­thing is mag­ni­fied through­out the course of the year. Health has been a big part of it, but we’re get­ting to full strength for the first time in a long time go­ing into Week 10.”

Fol­low on Twit­ter @Ay­man_S­tarDem. Email at aalam@star­dem.com

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