West Stokes traveled to Bunn on Friday night to face the hometown Wildcats in the first round of the state 2AA NCHSAA playoffs. Both teams fought freezing temperatures as the visiting Wildcats squeaked out a 24-19 victory to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the seventh time in nine years.
“Our kids fought hard and never gave up when we got behind,” said West Stokes coach Jimmy Upchurch. “I thought we played well as a team on both sides of the ball for the first time in several weeks. Our line blocked pretty good and Tyler (Smith) looked comfortable tonight. Chris (Brown) ran the ball hard and Amon (Conrad) had some carries and blocked well. All in all it was a good night for us.”
The visitors got on the board early in the game when Chris Brown sprinted around the right end for a 44-yard touchdown run with 9:41 left in the first quarter. Caleb Peter’s extra-point was blocked and the Cats led 6-0.
After both teams traded possessions, West Stokes began an 11 play drive that covered 71-yards in four-and-a-half-minutes. It ended with lineman Julius Smith running the ball in from 1-yard out for the 12-0 lead. The extra-point attempt for two was no good with 7:18 left in the half.
Bunn took the ensuing kickoff and began a drive from the 34-yard line. After seven running plays and two Wildcat penalties, the home team scored from 1-yard out with 3:56 left before halftime. The extra point proved good for a 12-7 score.
The home team Wildcats received the second half kickoff, but stalled on the 26-yard line when Zan Sandlin knocked the ball down on fourth-and-six. West Stokes was forced to punt on a three-and-out and Bunn capitalized on a punting error by the visitors. Facing a fourth-and-22, Tyler Little set up to punt, but the ball ricocheted off the back of a teammate’s helmet, traveling seven yards. Bunn’s Quetin Perry scooped the ball as it bounced and then broke several tackles on his way to score from 37-yards out giving his team a 13-12 advantage with 6:36 left in the third quarter.
West Stokes had the ball to start the fourth quarter, but quickly turned the ball back over to Bunn. The home team ran three plays and fumbled the ball where Tyler Walker recovered it on the 20-yard line. One play later, Brown covered the distance for his second touchdown of the contest and an 18-13 lead with 9:33 left in the game.
On Bunn’s next possession, it took them two-plays to regain the lead when Michael Perry picked up 49-yards on first down and then Tyre Davis scored from 16-yards out for the 19-18 lead with 8:52 left.
The visiting Wildcats used the next five minutes of the game and slowly moved down the field. Starting from the 40-yard line, they ran 11 straight rushing plays and scored when Tyler Smith fell in from less than a yard out with 3:30 left in the game. The two-point conversion was no good and West led 24-19.
Bunn would not back down as they drove to the Wildcat’s 19-yard line where they had second-and-nine. A tackle for loss by Walker and Little set up third-and-12. On the next play, Parker Pratt tied the career sack record at West Stokes with his second sack of the game for a 12-yard loss. Facing fourth down from the 34, West Stokes was flagged for a pass interference giving the home team one more play from the 19. Bunn’s quarterback Dylan Timberlake dropped back to pass and Pratt, along with Walker, sacked him to end the game and give Pratt the all-time career sack record with 27 in his two varsity years.
“Pratt has turned into a player we did not expect when he first moved up to varsity,” Upchurch said. “His hard work and determination has made him into a great football player. We are proud that Parker was able to break Bullard’s (Tyler) record. I honestly didn’t think it would be broken, but I’m glad Pratt did it. He is a great kid that comes from a good family.”
Brown led the Wildcats with 128-yards on 15-carries and two touchdowns. Tyler Smith had 67-yards rushing and 28-yards passing on 4-of-10 with no interceptions.
Tyler Walker led the defense with 20-tackles, eight of them coming for a loss, and a fumble recovery. Pratt had 13-tackles and three sacks, while Little added 10-tackles for West Stokes.
West Stokes (9-3) will travel to East Duplin (12-0) and take on the number one seeded Panthers on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the second round of the 2AA East NCHSAA bracket.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.