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Wilkes Central High School Athletics

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’Hawks, Eagles to renew rivalry

’HAWKS, EAGLES TO RENEW RIVALRY

ust 10 miles separate West Wilkes and Wilkes Central High Schools. They are the closest of any of the four high schools in the county and when they get together, like they will on Friday night in Millers Creek, the intensity is always turned up to 11. “It doesn’t matter if it’s JV football or varsity football or JV baseball or basketball or whatever, everybody wants to win that game and we both want to beat each other and have the bragging rights,” Wilkes Central Interim Head Coach Terry Johnson said. “It’s a very motivational game for both teams, especially for the kids. “It is a big, heated rivalry on the field, but most of the time off the field, those kids are friends — it’s just that one night when you have to hold your emotions.” For the last nine years, those bragging rights have belonged to the Eagles. The last time West Wilkes picked up a win in the series was 2006. In fact, Wilkes Central (2-2) has dominated the all-time series, winning 33 of the 41 matchups dating back to 1965. But this year, the Blackhawks (3-1) come in with a better record and an imposing group of linemen. “They’re big across the front,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen them on film and they’re a pretty good size up front. They have a group of linemen who have been together for a couple of years. We faced them back when they were freshmen or sophomores as JVs and they’re big and strong and they do a lot of things well.” Those guys up front will be aiming to slow down running back Justin Parsons, who has racked up 801 yards in the Eagles’ first four games. But the Blackhawks have been solid against the run this season and have allowed less than 4.1 yards per rush so far this season. The Eagles, in comparison are allowing nearly twice that amount. “Wilkes Central has one of the better offenses that we will see all year,” West Wilkes Head Coach David Hunt said. “They have more good athletes on offense than probably anyone in our conference, and they are very balanced in terms of run/pass ratio. “We need to keep them in front of us, contain their speed on the edges and not give up big plays, whether it be run or pass. Surry Central did a good job of making them work hard for yardage and scores, and we must do the same.” The Blackhawks’ secondary will certainly be tested on Friday night, more so than it has all season. Mitchell threw for 114 yards against West Wilkes and that was the most passing the Blackhawks have seen this year but the Eagles are averaging nearly 150 passing yards per game. “I think we’re kind of a two-headed animal,” Johnson said about the Eagles’ offense. “We run the ball well enough that people have to respect that. I think offensively we’ve done really well moving the football with the pass and mixing it up with the run. I think Justin Parsons has run really well for us all year. He’s a hard runner, hard to bring down, good center of gravity.” On the other side, the Eagles will be trying to contain the Blackhawks’ multi-faceted run-based offense. The Blackhawks have had six different backs see carries so far this year and five of them have found the end zone. Also, all six of those backs should be healthy and available Friday night for the first time since the opening game. Noah Dancy is the Blackhawks’ leading rusher so far this year with 287 yards but Alex Ortiz isn’t far behind with 213. “They are a much better football team than they were last year and they have some strong kids,” Johnson said. “They have the Ortiz kid, and I’ve seen him enough to know that he is fast and can move really well and can run really well. You have to slow him down and (Trenton) Walsh is a pretty good quarterback…he’s a little fast too. So we know we have to slow down the full back (Cody Call) and we have to slow down those two guys and we have to take care of the football.” Not only does Friday night’s game have major in-county implications, it is also the first night of Mountain Valley Athletic Conference play. This season, both the Eagles and the Blackhawks have their sights set on solid finishes in the MVAC and starting 1-0 is a great step toward those goals. “Winning Friday would give us a lot of momentum moving into the conference, so, yes, it means a lot in many different ways,” Hunt said. “This is what is so intense about this week to me. I love our kids, and we work every day to make sure that we are successful and have a good experience playing high school football during the small amount of time that we have with them. “I know those seniors will remember this week forever, and I want them to have as many great, positive memories as possible.”

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