Kinston remains undefeated with Homecoming win over Ayden-Grifton
Kinston’s Kieren Hooker scores the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter of the Vikings’ 28-7 victory over Ayden-Grifton. Photo by William “Bud” Hardy / Neuse News
Kinston wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip by and solidified itself as a conference power in the process.
The Vikings pulled away late in a 28-7 victory over Ayden-Grifton Saturday to continue the positive homecoming vibes, as well as another stellar start. Kinston is now 6-0 for the fifth time in school history and picked up a vital win over Ayden-Grifton (4-3), who defeated the Vikings in four of their five Eastern Carolina Conference meetings prior to this one, including last year’s 27-26 victory.
“I told our seniors ‘if you lost this one but scored five touchdowns, you wouldn’t remember that but if you won today it would live forever,’” Kinston coach Ryan Gieselman said. “We were able to respond in the second half really well and we locked in. We had a bend-but-don’t break mentality and were able to stop (the Chargers) when it mattered the most.”
Kinston went three-and-out to start the contest and Ayden-Grifton went on a 17-play drive, churning 8:13 off the clock to the Chargers fourth-and-goal at the Vikings 1. Kevin Boomer was stopped short of the goal line on the next play to keep the game scoreless and after the teams traded three-and-outs, Kinston was able to get on the board, as Kieren Hooker’s 39-yard connection to B.J. Luter set up a screen pass one play later to Khari Pitts, who took it 35 yards for a score early in the second.
Ayden-Grifton advanced to the Kinston 23 on the ensuing drive, but Mechaelin Davis recovered a fumble. After the teams traded possessions, Hooker appeared to have Pitts for an 11-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal, but a holding penalty brought it back to the Ayden-Grifton 30. After a quick Vikings punt, the Chargers advanced 95 yards in eight plays, starting with Blake McLawhorn’s 46-yard quarterback draw and ending with Ray Darden’s 1-yard run to tie the game at 7 heading into halftime.
Ayden-Grifton would make it to the Kinston 21 on the first possession of the second half, but turned the ball over on downs. The Vikings used a 68-yard connection from Hooker to Demetri Holmes to get to the Chargers 9, but were stopped on fourth down as Darden picked up a sack. Ayden-Grifton turned the ball over on downs again and Kinston took advantage, using a 40-yard connection from Hooker to Luter to set up the quarterback’s 6-yard run in the waning moments of the third to go up 14-7.
“We just stayed focus and did our job,” Hooker said. “We worked a lot in practice and (last year’s loss) was all on our minds. They beat us by one last year, and this year we couldn’t let that happen.”
Michael Webb took the ensuing kickoff to the Kinston 39 and five plays later, Ayden-Grifton was at the 18, but a fumble recovered by Jacel Jacobs with 9:58 left ended the threat. After the teams traded possessions, Kinston would benefit from Hooker converting on a fourth-and-3 and an Ayden-Grifton unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to make it to the Chargers 12. Pitts would score from 12 yards out to effectively end the contest at 21-7 with 2:28 to play.
“We had to just get after it,” Pitts said. “I feel like no secondary can guard us as long as we continue to play Kinston High football.”
Holmes would intercept McLawhorn on the next drive and took it 73 yards to the Ayden-Grifton 2, setting up Justin Holloway’s insurance touchdown one play later.
Overall, the Vikings stopped the Chargers four times inside the 25 and although Ayden-Grifton allowed just 65 yards rushing while gaining 267 on the ground, Hooker had five passing connections for 30 yards or more on the way to 259 yards.
Ayden-Grifton coach Paul Cornwell said the team had its chances, but now the focus is shifting toward its next opponent.
“I think we missed a lot of opportunities,” Cornwell said. “We weren’t able to punch it in at the 1 on the first drive and then we lost the ball a couple of times in the red zone. It’s about making plays and when you talk about winning a championship, you have to. Kinston did and while our defense did a lot of good things, we didn’t do enough. We’ve got to grow up. I hope (the players) are (ticked) off because they let one get away from them, and we can carry it into Monday for a good practice.”
Kinston will travel to Vanceboro to face West Craven Friday while Ayden-Grifton hosts North Lenoir.
KINSTON 28, AYDEN-GRIFTON 7
AG 0 7 0 0 — 7
K 0 7 7 14 — 28
K — Khari Pitts 35 pass from Kieren Hooker (Diego Patino kick), 10:02
AG — Ray Darden 1 run (Christian Hernandez kick), :12
K — Hooker 6 run (Patino kick), :18
K — Pitts 12 run (Patino kick), 2:28
K — Justin Holloway 2 run (Patino kick), 1:16
First Downs 19 8
Rushes 52-267 25-65
Passing 10-16-1 9-17-1
Passing Yards 59 259
Total Yards 326 325
Punts 3-30.3 4-34.3
Fumbles 2-2 1-0
Penalties 3-40 6-67
RUSHING — Ayden-Grifton: Ray Darden 26-144, Blake McLawhorn 6-60, Michael Webb 7-29, Marlon Cannon 4-15, Kevin Boomer 5-12, Keshawn Best 3-6, Garth Connell 1-1. Kinston: Jacel Jacobs 3-24, Justin Holloway 11-22, Khari Pitts 3-12, Kieren Hooker 6-4, Demetri Holmes 1-4, Jaedan Whitfield 1-minus 1.
PASSING — Ayden-Grifton: McLawhorn 10-16-1, 59. Kinston: Hooker 9-17-1, 259.
RECEIVING — Ayden-Grifton: Webb 4-36, Boomer 3-15, Jeffrey 1-4, J.C. Darden 1-4, Best 1-0. Kinston: B.J. Luter 2-79, Holmes 1-68, Jacobs 3-58, Pitts 3-54.