By Tom Ham
WILSON — A pair of lightning delays totaling some 90 minutes created a Thursday evening in the Fike High football stadium too lengthy for most spectators among a sparse turnout to endure.
And time on the playing surface must have seemed like an eternity for the varsity Golden Demons defense because of a grinding, time-chewing ground game from a Clayton team of the 3-A Greater Neuse Conference that dealt Fike a 27-7 nonconference loss.
The Comets, in registering their fifth win against a lone loss, piled up 277 yards rushing and senior running back Trevaun Richardson thrived. Final-season struggles ended for the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Richardson with 188 punishing yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries.
The Demons, playing for the first time in nearly three weeks, tumbled to 2-3. Fike was limited to six first downs, a season-low 132 yards total offense and converted its only threat into its TD in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
Clayton, which threw but one pass in the second half, sustained a scoring drive in each quarter and capped the evening with a 17-play, 88-yard march that consumed nine minutes.
“We looked like a team that hadn’t tackled in three weeks,” assessed Fike head coach Tom Nelson. “We did a poor job of blocking up front and on the perimeter. It was not our best showing.”
The Comets steadily pounded their way into Fike’s end zone behind the running of Richardson, Harding and senior Jaylen Traynham. At one point, Richardson recovered his fumble to keep the drive alive. Richardson plunged the final yard. Junior Noah Williams kicked the extra point with 3:11 remaining.
“We pride ourselves in defense and being able to run the ball,” noted Clayton head coach Hunter Jenks. “If you play defense and run the football, you’ve got a chance to win.”
Especially pleasing to the Comets was the nine-minute TD drive.
“I like to run the ball,” Jenks said. “And to be able to go out and run nine minutes off the clock is a testament to our offense. Fike has a pretty good defense. I would never pass it if I didn’t have to.”
Senior quarterback Austin Cagle also passed effectively in the Comets’ first three TD thrusts. Backup junior quarterback Jacob Whittington engineered the final TD march.
Payoffs for the Comets were Cagle’s 42-yard toss over the middle to Richardson in the first quarter, Richardson’s 5-yard burst in the second quarter and Cagle’s 3-yard keeper in the third quarter.
The Demons never invaded Clayton’s 40-yard line until striking for their TD. Nelson didn’t deny Fike was dominated physically.
“They’re a good football team,” Jenks commented of Fike. “Hopefully, they will stay healthy and win some games down the stretch.”