Lee County faces 10-1 Demons Friday night
Lee County has already played a football season to be proud of. The Yellow Jackets are 9-2 for their most wins in a regular season since 1987. The Jackets, for the second straight season, have earned a home playoff game, this year in the 3AA state playoffs.
The Jackets' reward for the hard work and fine record - hosting 10-1 Fike at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the first round.
The visiting Demons, from Wilson and the Big East Conference, were undefeated until last Friday night and a 41-34 loss to Hunt which decided the Big East crown.
For the last three games of the regular season, said Lee County head coach Burton Cates, reaching the ninth victory was a rallying cry.
"And the kids responded to that challenge," he said.
"Now it's about, do you want to continue playing football. It's about the desire a team has to continue the season for one more week," Cates said.
It can only be one opponent at a time, but the Yellow Jackets are trying to build on reaching the second round of the 4A state tournament last season. Lee County prevailed, 57-35, over Terry Sanford in the first round in Sanford last November. Fike was 2-9 a season ago and this is its first winning season since 2008.
"(Fike) was looking at finishing 11-0," Cates said, "but one bad half cost them the conference championship and now they have to go on the road, so we know we'll be facing a very fired up opponent here Friday night."
Lee County survived a scare last Friday in a 23-9 win over Southern Lee. Southern Lee led 9-8 in the fourth quarter before the Yellow Jackets turned entirely to the ground on offense and came up with some big defensive plays.
A 50-yard touchdown drive, all gained on runs by Jacket junior Jerry Pullum, put Lee County ahead 16-9.
Patrick Bethea's interception, the third Jacket pick of the game after Pressley Hales got one in the first quarter and one earlier in the fourth quarter, stopped the next Cavalier possession and led to another Lee County touchdown. The three interceptions gives the Jacket defense 14 on the season along with seven fumble recoveries.
Pullum carried 34 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns versus Southern Lee, giving him 1,775 yards and 28 rushing touchdowns on the season. Giving Pullum more help will be key now versus playoff foes.
"We have to be balanced," Cates said, "we weren't able to throw the ball very well versus Southern Lee and we've got to be able to throw and run."
The Demons can hurt defenses in both ways, Cates said. Fike primary running back is their top playmaker, too.
Junior Anthony Evans has rushed for 1,582 yards and 17 touchdowns, while also returning three touchdowns on punts and kicks.
Sophomore quarterback D.J. Daniels is averaging 105 passing yards a game. He has 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions on the season. Along with Evans, sophomore back A.J. Hines has 937 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing.
Win No. 10 for the Yellow Jackets would pit them against the winner of No. 16 Western Harnett at No. 1 Douglas Byrd next Friday night. As is the case each Friday at this stage of the season though, the season comes down to one week at a time.