'Diesel' becomes county's winningest coach in Kinston's close win
Kinston head coach Ryan ‘Diesel’ Gieselman paces the sideline Thursday night in his team’s 20-19 win at North Lenoir. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News
LA GRANGE – The Kinston High School football team gave its coach a historic victory Thursday night – but it sure didn’t come easily.
Kinston’s Ryan “Diesel” Gieselman earned his 54th coaching victory to make him the winningest coach in Lenoir County history as his undefeated Vikings (9-0 overall, 5-0 Eastern Carolina 2A) survived a valiant effort by winless North Lenoir, 20-19, in league action Thursday night.
Gieselman is now 54-22 in his five-plus seasons at Kinston, surpassing Kinston-Lenoir County Sports Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Smith, who led South Lenoir to 53 wins in his career.
“It’s very special to me, especially to follow in the footsteps of a legendary coach (like Smith),” Gieselman said. “It’s huge for our staff. It’s not about me – it’s about our coaches and the guys in our locker room. It’s also a testament to the hard work our teams have put in.”
Combined with Ayden-Grifton’s victory at Greene Central on Thursday, Kinston’s win also clinched at least a share of the EC2A title for the Vikings and the top seed from the league. The Vikings were picked to finish fourth in the league in the preseason by the EC2A coaches.
“We’ve come together as a team,” Gieselman said. “Everybody knows their role and there’s no selfishness on this team.”
North Lenoir (0-9, 0-4) didn’t make it easy for Kinston. The Hawks led 7-0 in the first quarter, 13-7 late in the second quarter and 19-14 until the fourth quarter before Kinston rallied for the victory. Trey Barnes, who came on in relief of injured starter Onassis Gardner, scored two first-half touchdowns for the Hawks while Isiah Warren returned an interception for a touchdown to give North Lenoir its final lead at 19-14 early in the second half.
But in a driving rainstorm that soaked Bullock Field the entire second half, Kinston rallied to go ahead 20-19 on a Justin Holloway 10-yard touchdown run with 3:55 remaining in the game. The North Lenoir offense went four-and-out on its next possession and Kinston ran out the clock to defeat the Hawks for the 22nd time in 28 matchups in the series that dates back to 1991.
Kinston quarterback Kieren Hooker threw for one touchdown to Khari Pitts while Demetri Holmes threw for a short score to Kymonte Roberts to give the Vikings a 14-13 halftime lead.
North Lenoir’s Jim Collins saw his team lose yet another close game in his inaugural season as head coach.
“I am so proud of our effort tonight,” Collins said. “They played one of the top teams in the state and with a couple of bounces, we could’ve won this game.”
Kinston will close its 2018 regular season at Greene Central next week while the Hawks will travel to West Craven on Tuesday and then close its season at home on Nov. 9 vs. Washington.