South Iredell made an emphatic statement Friday against Bunker Hill: they are the reigning Catawba Valley Athletic Conference champions, and they are here to stay.
The Vikings (6-0, 2-0) amassed 537 yards of total offense, including a combined 452 yards from quarterback Adrian Whitener and running back Cameron Mattox, crushing the Bears in Claremont, 49-2.
Bunker Hill coach Travis Conner compared Friday’s contest to a race at a dog track.
“We started 10 sophomores tonight,” Conner said. “We are playing puppies. Mattox is a ... greyhound. A full grown, adult greyhound. I’d place my money on him at the track.”
Mattox logged a combined 329 all-purpose yards, including 198 rushing yards and 131 receiving yards and two touchdowns, leading the Vikings in the victory.
“Mattox is special,” Conner said. “They spread the field out wide and make you get out there. They have athletes in their four wideouts. They make you get out there and cover them. They get you out so wide that Mattox has big space to do his thing. He’s kind of like the kid we had here last year, Devontaye Wilson.”
Bunker Hill (5-1, 1-1) tried a little trickery on the opening kickoff, onside kicking the football. After bouncing off South Iredell’s LaChaston Smith, Bears defender Kevin Shook recovered the ball and gave the Bears the opportunity to pounce.
The drive ended when Justin Lynch fumbled in Vikings territory. After a strong screen play put them in the red zone, the Vikings’ Mattox scored on a nine-yard run to make it a 6-0 game after a failed two-point conversion.
The Bears once again put together a promising drive, taking them into the red zone, but a failed fourth down and goal attempt left Bunker Hill empty-handed. The fourth down risk proved to be a smart one, however, as the Bears pinned the Vikings deep in their own territory.
A snap by South Iredell center Adam Armstrong off the head of quarterback Adrian Whitener went out of the end zone, putting the Bears on the scoreboard with a safety.
The Bears offense struggled, taking Bunker Hill’s first three possessions within the Vikings’ 10-yard line, but they were unable to score a single point offensively.
“We felt like we played a heck of a first half and should have been in the locker room down 16-12 at worst,” Conner said. “It should have been 21-12 or 21-13. We weren’t because we didn’t convert on those fourth-down plays. It would have been fun to get them in that situation and see if they panicked.”
Even when Bunker Hill got a stop on defense, four missed tackles on special teams allowed Vikings holder Scott Miller to evade defenders on a field goal attempt and scamper for a touchdown. South Iredell led 20-2 at halftime.
Early in the second half, a 71-yard touchdown run by Mattox was wiped out by a block in the back penalty, but that didn’t stop the Vikings from scoring. Whitener found Briggs Lundsford on a 32-yard touchdown pass, his first score of the game. The senior quarterback also connected with receiver Quataye Smyre, a recent commit to East Carolina University, on the two-point conversion to make it a 28-2 lead for the Vikings.
On the Bears’ next possession, Ryan Huffman’s fumble was recovered by South Iredell’s Eythan Kramm, the team’s leader in sacks with three. The Vikings drove down the field, scoring again with Whitener. The senior quarterback used his legs this time to give the Vikings another score, scrambling 12 yards for a touchdown.
“We talked all week long about wrapping them up and grabbing cloth,” Conner said. “I don’t think we grabbed any cloth. Mattox got out there in space and ran.”
Capping a great night through the air, Whitener connected on a nine-yard touchdown pass to Michael Fisher.
After enjoying some early success on the ground, the Bears were held to 99 rushing yards as a team through three quarters, including 65 yards on 21 carries from Reggie Davis. He finished the game with 99 yards, the first game this season that he’s finished with less than 100 yards.
Attempting to try something new on offense, the Bears went to the air, but were unsuccessful. They threw three straight times at the end of the third quarter, completing no passes.
With the game in hand, South Iredell turned to its reserves and they impressed. Back up quarter Davin King added a 13-yard touchdown on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
Suffering its first loss of the season, Bunker Hill attempts to bounce back next week during their homecoming game against Draughn, who is 2-0 in the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference.
Conner believes this is a turning point for his team’s season.
“They play very sound football,” Conner said. “They don’t get out of position. They are coached really well. I have a lot of respect for Draughn. We talked about that after the game. This week will define what kind of character we have. In my opinion, Draughn, Maiden, Newton and Bandys are all right there. There isn’t much difference in any of them. If we show up and have a great ball game, we can stay with them. Anyone we play from here on out is a good football team.”