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Vikings fall in season opener

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Blake Bizzell (#80) is tackled by Northeastern players during a game, Friday evening.

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By Malcolm Shields
Cooke Communications

Saturday, August 18, 2018

It was another down to the wire high school football finish between D.H. Conley and Northeastern.

Last season’s contest between the teams went to overtime in Elizabeth City. On Friday night, the Vikings rallied from a double-digit deficit and were on the verge of potentially sending the contest into overtime.

A goal-line stand by Northeastern in the final seconds secured a 42-34 Northeastern victory in the season opener for both teams at D.H. Conley.

The Vikings had possession of the ball with less than two minutes remaining and trailing by eight points. Quarterback Nick Hamilton and the Conley offense drove the ball nearly 80 yards.

Conley had success on the final drive by throwing screen passes to wide receiver CJ Johnson along with a key catch by Matthew Rostar and got the ball to the Northeastern 4-yard line with two seconds remaining.

The Vikings went to a run play, but running back Isaiah Gamble was tackled inside the 1-yard line as time expired.

“I think these were two very evenly matched teams,” Conley coach Nate Conner said. “Two very similar teams. [Northeastern] made a few more plays. We didn’t make plays in crucial situations. Our guys stepped up and made a lot of stops on some great ball carriers, defensively. We did what we had to do offensively.”

Northeastern (1-0) took the lead for good with 1:55 remaining on an 83-yard touchdown run by quarterback Aaron Harris.

The touchdown run was set up by a fourth-down stop by the Eagles at their own 13-yard line with 3:28 left in the game.

If you like a lot of offense, then the first half was your type of game.

The Vikings and their passing attack went toe-to-toe with Northeastern’s power running game.

For the Conley offense, it was the type of start a team would want. Hamilton, a junior making his varsity debut leading the offense, did what a good quarterback does, which is to get the ball into the playmakers’ hands.

The Vikings took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a Hamilton screen pass that Johnson caught and avoided Northeastern defenders into the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown.

Conley took advantage of a defensive stop on fourth down and a short field as running back Isaiah Gamble scored on a 31-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 13-0.

Northeastern went heavy with the running game as senior running back Traveon Freshwater, an East Carolina commit, scored on touchdown runs of 44, six and 15 yards.

Combined with a score by Tyquan Mercer, NHS led 28-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Conley got a defensive stop in the second as a Northeastern runner fumbled at the goal line. That set up a Hamilton screen pass to Johnson. The senior wide receiver sprinted down the Conley sideline for an 80-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 28-20.

Both teams exchanged scores late in the half as the Eagles took a 34-27 lead at halftime.

Conley tied the game with 3:28 to go in the third quarter on a Hamilton screen pass to Nyck Brown for a 55-yard score. Hamilton threw for four touchdowns in the contest.

“He’s a tough kid,” Conner said of Hamilton. “I’m very proud of him.”

Conley continues non-conference action with a contest against Rocky Mount next Friday.

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