Wake Christian surprises Bears on opening night
Surprise! Not the word a coach wants to hear, especially a football coach who's spent the last few weeks in the heat and humidity preparing a team for the opening of the season.
But that's exactly what happened on Friday night at Chatham Central with the opening kickoff by Wake Christian Academy.
Immediately before the game began, passing the 50-yard line, Chatham Central head coach Bob Pegram said to his players on the field, “watch the onside kick. Watch the onside kick. Watch the onside kick."
"Well, they onside kicked, and we weren’t ready," said Pegram after the game.
Wake Christian recovered the ball near midfield, and on their second play from scrimmage found the end zone on a 50-yard run. The Bulldogs were quickly ahead 7-0 with 11:07 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bears were reeling after the quick turn of events and, playing from behind the entire game, never recovered from the unusual start to their season.
“I just finished telling my guys, I’m not going to make any excuses. We didn’t play very well tonight,” Pegram said.
Equally surprising for Pegram was the fact his squad had beaten Wake Christian last year, 33-7, and he believes this group of young men are a better team than last year's squad.
"This stings. This is disappointing because we beat them soundly last year," he said.
Chatham Central appeared ready to answer the challenge when the offense got the ball for the first time. In a series that included, not one, but two successful fake punt attempts, the Bears clawed their way down the gridiron, but came up empty when junior quarterback Rodney Van De Walker was intercepted in the end zone.
Wake Christian moved the ball on the ground until, facing a 3rd-and-13, the Bulldog quarterback put a long pass up. Chatham Central had two players in position to intercept the throw. Both Bears, however, misjudged the ball, and a Wake Christian receiver hauled it in before going out of bounds on the 1-yard line. A touchdown run on the next play put the Bulldogs up 14-0 at the 10:30 mark of the second quarter.
In Chatham Central’s second possession of the night, the Bears marched down the field buoyed by Andrew Jurden’s back-to-back runs of 20 and 14 yards. With 5:26 remaining in the first half, Chatham Central got on the scoreboard with Adam Teague’s 4-yard jaunt into the end zone. After a missed kick, the Bears trailed 14-6.
The sides traded fumbles before the Bulldogs scored on a 5-yard run with 0:27 left in the half. Wake Christian led 20-6 at halftime.
Zack Burke's interception stopped Wake Christian's first chance with the ball in the second half. Now on offense, Burke, an all-conference senior, went for a 27-yard run to the Bulldog 23. The Bear drive stalled on downs.
A Wake Christian fumble gave the Bears another chance right away and Burke scored on an 11-yard run. The two-point conversion failed and the Bears were within 20-12.
After a Wake Christian punt, Chatham Central took over on the Bear 20-yard line, but a fumbled pitch resulted in a Bulldog recovery in the end zone for a 27-12 lead with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs added another touchdown, on a 52-yard run on a quarterback keeper, with 10:08 left in the game.
“We didn’t execute on offense like I thought we would," Pegram said, "and we had a lot of assignment breakdowns on defense.”
There were positives to build on with so much of the season to go.
"The offensive line did a real good job of blocking," he said, "(and) we did a good job on defense creating some turnovers.”
The Bears will host county rival Jordan-Matthews at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“We have got to fix what’s broken with us before we can deal with them," Pegram said. "It will be electric here, because it’s a big rivalry game."