Wilkes Central High School Athletics


Perfect 10


Thirty minutes before kickoff, the line of traffic approaching the campus of West Wilkes High School stretched almost to the 16/Old 421 intersection and on campus, cars colorfully dotted nearly any available square of pavement or grass. But for the throng of fans of both visiting Wilkes Central and the home Blackhawks who made it to Wilkes County’s best rivalry game Friday night in Millers Creek, the wait was well worth it. The Eagles survived a late Hawks charge in an instant classic, bolstered by another stand-out performance by Justin Parsons for the 23-21 Mountain Valley Athletic Conference victory. Parsons, respectfully wearing the number 15 of injured senior teammate Nathan Born, scored twice and gained 91 yards to lead the Eagles, who improved to 3-2 overall and a perfect 1-0 after the league opener. But the story for the Eagles may well have been a defense that played extremely well two weeks after allowing 72 points in a single game. The Eagles gave up an opening touchdown drive to West Wilkes, a 10-play drive that was capped by a seven-yard run from Alex Ortiz. But Wilkes Central stiffened after that dicey start. “We were out of alignment on their first drive tonight, and they found out where we weren’t. Our secondary was making a lot of the tackles early, and that’s not the way we wanted to start out,” said Wilkes Central Interim Head Coach Terry Johnson. “But we made adjustments, and more importantly the kids executed those adjustments. We got where we were supposed to be, and we got low on their big, physical offensive line.” The Eagles’ offense answered the initial West score with a nice drive of their own. Parsons did his part, but the big play was a 33-yard touchdown pass from Camden Wyatt to Jasiah Ferguson. Ferguson hauled in the pass in the left flat and then went to work. He evaded three different Blackhawks’ defenders, first down the sideline and then into the middle, where he eventually strolled into the end zone. West’s point-after was blocked, but Jack Privette hit his shot to give the visitors a 7-6 lead. “Our offense clicked all night long,” said Johnson. “A lot of folks were saying we wouldn’t be able to run the football. But our offensive coaches put together a great game plan.” Parsons scored his first touchdown with 2:27 left in the first half, on a fourth down play inches from the goal line. After his third down attempt was stymied, Parsons surged after a quick direct-snap through the middle of the defense, and a successful two-point conversion made the score 15-6. The Hawks weren’t finished in the first half, however. After the Eagles held West Wilkes to one yard on three plays, Nick Nuzzolilo dropped back to punt inside the red zone. But a roughing the kicker penalty against Central gave West an instant first down and Noah Triplett was able to boot a 40-yard field goal as time expired before the intermission. “We had a couple of breakdowns,” said Johnson. “We had a couple of bad penalties, and we gave up a couple of third-and-long and fourth-and-long plays were we couldn’t get off the field.” Central scored first in the third, on another Parsons touchdown. The big play, however, was a Wyatt-to-Trent Love completion that went for 39 yards and set the Eagles up for first-and-goal. Down 23-9, West Wilkes controlled the rest of the game offensively, though it wasn’t easy. Facing third-and-20, quarterback Trenton Walsh dropped back and threw a bomb to Cole Smith. Smith was covered well by both Central’s Love and Terry Calhoun but the ball was perfectly thrown and resulted in a 34-yard touchdown pass, West’s first of the season. Now trailing 23-15, West’s Tanner Clifton made the next big defensive play, intercepting Wyatt on the left sideline as Wyatt tried to hit Jojo Horton. Clifton went up high, snatched the ball away and came down so hard on his back that his helmet flew off on contact. But the turnover was secured, and the home team embarked on a 15-play drive that started at their own 4. West Wilkes lived up the middle, getting big gains behind the triumvirate of Ortiz, Walsh (who finished with a game-high 138 yards) and Noah Dancy. And with 3:50 left to play, Ortiz squeezed through the mass at the line of scrimmage and dove into the end zone from the Central 3, cutting the deficit to two. But a subsequent two-point try failed as Central’s Tyler Boles and Philip Lambert swarmed Ortiz behind the line of scrimmage. Still, the Hawks got the ball back with 26.7 seconds left and Walsh was able to move his troops all the way from the West 24 to the Eagles’ 41. And with only 3.9 left on the clock, West Wilkes Head Coach David Hunt sent out Triplett for the 58-yard field goal try. The potential game-winner sailed wide right, though, and Wilkes Central was victorious. West Wilkes dropped to 3-2 and 0-1 despite a terrific fourth quarter comeback try that fell just short. “We showed an awful lot of poise at the end,” said Hunt. “We showed poise throughout the second half, actually