In the final game of a shortened season made even more bizarre by the unpredictable spring weather, the D.H. Conley Vikings scored a season high on senior night in a 51-6 victory over in-county rival South Central on Thursday night, a game originally scheduled for Friday night.
With the victory, the Vikings moved to 5-2 overall, improved to 4-2 in the 3A/4A Eastern Carolina Conference and strengthened their case for earning an at-large berth into the NCHSAA playoffs. It is also the second straight win over South Central after defeating the Falcons 41-6 at the end of the 2019 season.
“I’m so proud of our boys. They were resilient this week and have been resilient all year,” Conley head coach Nate Conner said. “We played Monday night and played a really strong game, then we came back the next morning and practice. We found out yesterday we were going to play this game tonight. (The kids) have been great on their spring break. They never wavered and I think that is a testament to their character and everything they do.”
The Falcons, meanwhile, fell to 3-3 in both regular season and conference play and will likely be on the outside looking in when the playoff bracket is released on Saturday.
“Conley came out and got on us pretty early,” South Central head coach Andy Tew said. “We made a lot of mistakes and couldn’t bounce back from it. We controlled the line of scrimmage and made some big plays and then we made huge mistakes with turnovers.”
Led by junior quarterback Bryce Jackson, Conley was efficient offensively, earning 327 yards of total offense. Jackson threw five touchdown passes on the night and completed 17 of his 21 attempts for 257 yards. Three of those touchdown passes landed in the hands of LeShaun Atchison, who finished the night with eight catches for 159 yards receiving.
“It felt great. We come out and practice hard every week,” Jackson said. “I love these seniors. The connection this team had this year is nothing you could recreate. It felt really good to lead them tonight. Hopefully we get another week.”
Meanwhile, the Viking defense forced three turnovers, including two pick-sixes from senior defensive back Kahlil Harper in the second half, and allowed just one touchdown in the game.
In likely his final game as a Falcon, Zyaire Williams carried the ball 31 times for 179 yards and scored the only South Central touchdown of the night. He accounted for over half of the South Central’s total offensive yardage.
Despite working the ball all the way to the South Central 7-yard line, Conley failed to score on its first possession. But after a defensive stand, Jackson connected with tight end Cooper Marcum in the middle of the field, and Marcum broke several tackles on his way to a 50-yard touchdown that put Conley up 6-0 on the third play of the drive.
“The first couple of plays were big,” Conner said. “We moved the ball and that gave us confidence. I thought the first half, offensively, we played really well. South Central did a good job against the run which opened up our pass game and we took what they were giving us and did a nice job. We played great defense that continued to give us confidence and special teams gave us good situations too.”
After recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Jackson found receiver Justin Foreman open on a wheel route for a 24-yard score. Two touchdown receptions by Atchinson from Jackson in the second quarter gave the Vikings a 24-0 lead at halftime.
Williams scored the only South Central touchdown midway through the third quarter, a one-yard dash set up by a 10-play drive.
The Conley defense was the story of the second half, as Harper jumped two passes from Falcon junior Kelvin Chadwick and returned them for touchdowns. Ramon Mabry scored the only rushing touchdown for Conley, a two-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter, and Atchinson and Jackson connected for the final offensive touchdown of the night on the next possession, a screen-play that went for 51 yards.
With the regular season complete, the Vikings will now have to wait until Saturday to discover if they made the NCHSAA playoffs.
“It is hard to make the playoffs this year,” Conner said. “I’m proud of the way these guys played and I would love to see these guys play and get another opportunity. We’ll have to see what the state determines and maybe there is a spot open. There’s a couple teams that feel that way right now, so we will see how it plays out.”
SOFTBALL Farmville Central 11 North Pitt 9
In a Pitt County battle, the visiting Jaguars took a commanding 10-0 lead in the first four innings, but a furious North Pitt rally saw the Panthers score nine times in the final three frames to make it a tight finish.
Kenya Pittman keyed the Farmville offense from the leadoff spot, going 3-for-5 with a triple, two runs scored and an RBI. Haleigh Long also drove in a run and scored twice in the win.
Savannah Bland went the distance in the circle, striking out six on nine hits.
For North Pitt, Kayden Howell led the way, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs, while MacKenzie Staton also drove in a pair.
D.H. Conley 14 Southern Wayne 1, 5 inn.
Emma Adams earned the abbreviated complete-game victory, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out seven for the Vikings.
Trinity Nichols went 2-for-4 with a home run, Anna Sawyer, Aidan McHugh and Mia Trueblood each added doubles in the win.
BOYS’ TENNIS J.H. Rose 9, New Bern 0
The Rampants continued their domination in conference play on Wednesday, staying unbeaten with a shutout of New Bern.
Making another clean sweep of the singles round were Owen Osborne, Chad Styron, Stockton Rouse, Landon Brown, Bryson Wall and Wesley Keen. In doubles, the tandems of Osborne/Styron, Brown/Rouse and Taylor/Evans finished the job.