West Craven hands Ayden-Grifton first defeat of the season
Ayden-Grifton head football coach Paul Cornwell talks with his team during a timeout against West Craven on Friday evening. Photo by Rudy Coggins / Neuse News
AYDEN — Ayden-Grifton hasn't quite solved the enigma of West Craven football since the schools renewed their series in 2015.
There have been five meetings, and the Eagles have won all five.
The latest setback occurred Friday evening, as West Craven bolted to a two-touchdown advantage and cruised 34-23 on the Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference scene. The Eagles exited as ECC co-leaders with Washington at 2-0, while it was the Chargers' league opener.
"They've got a good football team," said Ayden-Grifton head football coach Paul Cornwell. "This was really more us. We made a lot of mistakes and I take full responsibility for that. I didn't have us ready to play."
The Eagles blocked the Chargers' first punt of the game that resulted in a 28-yard, scoop-and-score for Sheldon Yates Jr. Two possessions later, West Craven (4-2 overall) boosted its lead to 14-0 on Jonathan Ward's 66-yard punt return.
"Those are two huge plays," Cornwell said.
The special teams miscues along with a sporadic offense overshadowed a sterling effort by the defensive unit. West Craven cobbled out an anemic minus-9 yards rushing, converted just one third down and punted on six occasions.
Ayden-Grifton logged three quarterback sacks and posted 12 tackles for loss.
The Eagles finished with 142 yards of total offense.
"Our defense played their butt off all night," Cornwell said. "We kept putting them in bad situations. Our center got hurt, the backup center was hurt. No excuses, I've got to have us ready to play.
Ayden-Grifton climbed to within 14-13 on Jeffrey Darden's 22-yard scoring strike from Josh Wright and Marlon Cannon's 15-yard run.
West Craven answered with consecutive touchdowns before Keyshawn Best capped the Chargers' homecoming with a 29-yard scoring reception from Wright. Wright connected on five passes to three different receivers, and ended up with 145 yards. The junior threw three picks.
The Chargers (4-1) travel to Washington next Friday.
Notes: Ayden-Grifton is 30-17 in conference openers since 1973. ... The Chargers entered the game with the league's best-scoring defense (8 ppg). ... Cornwell's team was denied the program's first 5-0 start since 2005. ... West Craven has won eight of 11 meetings in the series.
West Craven 7 7 7 13 - 34
Ayden-Grifton 0 7 6 8 - 23
WC - Yates Jr. 28 blocked punt return (kick good), 6:47
WC - Ward 66 punt return (kick good)
AG - Darden 22 pass from Wright (Hernandez kick), 2:58
AG - Cannon 15 run (run failed), 2:09
WC - Abrams 75 pass from Casey (kick good), 1:39
WC - Kearney 1 run (kick good), 9:08
WC - Abrams 9 pass from Casey (kick blocked), 8:43
AG - Best 29 pass from Wright (Wright run), 6:38
First downs 6 11
Rushes-yds 28-(-9) 44-64
Passing 10-16-0 5-15-4
Passing yards 151 145
Total yards 142 209
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-1
Punts-yds 6-29.7 3-17.0
Penalties-yds 10-79 6-51
RUSHING - Ayden-Grifton: Josh Wright 19-33, Marlon Cannon 14-49, Tyler Brown 2-2, Michael Webb 6-11, Keyshawn Best 1-0, Team 2-(minus-31). West Craven: DayQuan Shelton 7-11, Arthur Abrams 3-5, Trent Casey 7-(minus-16), Silas Wallace 4-19, Tyquan Kearney 2-2, Niante Lockett 2-(minus-3), Team 3-(minus-15).
PASSING - Ayden-Grifton: Wright 5-14-3, 145; Quinton Mitchell 0-1-1, 0. West Craven: Casey 10-16-0, 151.
RECEIVING - Ayden-Grifton: Best 2-75, Webb 1-5, Jeffrey Darden 2-65. West Craven: Abrams 3-122, Jonathan Ward 1-10, Kearney 1-(minus-2), Wallace 2-9, Lockett 2-12.