With heavy hearts, NL falls to Bunn
North Lenoir's Jim Collins coached his first game for the Hawks Friday night. Photo by William 'Bud' Hardy / Neuse News
LA GRANGE—A year ago, Bunn needed a field goal on the last play of the game to rally past North Lenoir.
On Friday night, no such dramatics were required as the two teams opened the 2018 season at NL’s Bullock Field.
Bunn spotted the Hawks an early touchdown and then reeled off five consecutive scores en route to a 34-7 victory, spoiling Jim Collins’ first game as North Lenoir coach.
“We’re a better football team than we showed tonight,” Collins said. “No excuses, but it’s been a tough week here at North Lenoir. We made a lot of little mistakes, and you can’t do that against a team of Bunn’s caliber.”
The Hawks played with heavy hearts after the tragic passing of student Rylee Miller a week ago. Because of the accident, the football team cancelled its scheduled scrimmage and had to adjust its practice schedule.
The lack of practice time showed at times against the perennial power Wildcats.
“Everything we did wrong is fixable,” Collins said. “We played hard but missed several assignments on both offense and defense. Some of its was typical first-game jitters, and some of it was due to all the distractions of the past week.”
After North Lenoir’s Malachi Johnson recovered a fumble at the Bunn 46, the Hawks found paydirt on James Whitfield’s 8-yard run with 2:53 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats answered with a nifty 15-play, 80-yard drive, with all but 13 coming on the ground.
Quentin Perry’s 4-yard jaunt put Bunn on the board and Caleb Morton’s 2-point conversion run gave the Wildcats the 8-7 lead with 8:47 remaining in the second period.
The sequence that followed proved to be the turning point of the game, according to Collins.
A 38-yard pass from Christian Young to Trequan Hawkins set North Lenoir up with a first down at the Bunn 11. A five-yard loss on a sweep, an incomplete pass, and then a quarterback sack forced the Hawks to attempt a 37-yard field goal, which was blocked.
Two plays later, Bunn’s Perry bolted around the right side and outraced the NL secondary 80 yards for the back-breaking score with 4:04 to go before halftime.
“If we score on that drive, then I think it’s a different ballgame,” Collins said. “Instead, we come up empty and then they bust a long TD run. It really knocked the wind out of us.”
Perry finished the night with 179 yards and 4 TD’s on 14 carries. He added scoring jaunts of 42 and 14 yards in the third quarter.
Bunn rushed for 342 yards in the contest and held the Hawks to 189 total yards. The Wildcats sacked NL quarterback Young 5 times.
NL’s Onassis Gardner rolled up 92 yards on the ground on the 14 carries. Tight end Jason Gagnon hauled in a pair of receptions for 48 yards.
In the fourth quarter, the Hawks were stopped on downs in side the Bunn 5-yard line.
“We did some good things offensively, but we definitely left some points out there on the field,” Collins said.
GAME NOTES: North Lenoir’s Blake Davis was carted off the field on a stretcher with a hip injury in the second quarter, but his mother reported after the game that was fine and would likely be available for next week’s game against Farmville Central . . . Bunn wore decals on its helmets in honor of North Lenoir student Rylee Miller. “A class act by a class coach,” NL’s Collier said of Bunn head man Dale Murphy.