By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 4, 2005 2:15 AM
By BRYAN C. HANKS
Courtesy Kinston Free Press
KINSTON -- Just call it the home field disadvantage. For the sixth straight year in the North Lenoir-Kinston series, the visiting team walked off the field with a victory at its archrival's home.
On Friday, the Hawks defense held Kinston to 32 total yards in the second half and overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to down the Vikings, 32-21.
The win was only the fourth on-field victory for North Lenoir against Kinston in 15 meetings, but was by the most points for a Hawks squad vs. the Vikings.
The win improved North Lenoir to 1-1, while Kinston dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 2001.
A pair of seniors who play on both sides of the ball -- Tyrone Spencer and Eric Whitfield -- were the keys to the North Lenoir win. Spencer rushed for one touchdown and caught a pass for another while Whitfield rushed for 159 yards and two scores on only 15 carries.
"I'm tired, but my excitement overwhelms all that," Spencer said. "I couldn't be happier right now."
Kinston led 21-12 at halftime after an 83-yard touchdown run by Jerome Koonce, a 19-yard touchdown pass from Antonio Whitfield to Terry Locust and an 89-yard kickoff return for a score by Michael Thompson.
But North Lenoir's defense stiffened in the second half, holding a Kinston offense that erupted for 162 first-half yards to only 36 in the final 24 minutes of the game.
"In the last 10 minutes of the first half and in the second half, we took it to them defensively," North Lenoir coach Wayne Jackson said. "I'm extremely proud of them."
While the Hawks defense was smothering the Kinston offense, the North Lenoir offense found its stride. Spencer (2-yard), Whitfield (39-yard) and junior halfback Zack Carter (31-yard) scored second-half rushing touchdowns as North Lenoir finished with 154 second-half yards for a total of 325 in the game.
Whitfield and Spencer were responsible for 272 of those 325 yards, a fact not lost on Jackson.
"It's been Antonio (Hamilton) for the last three years and now it's their turn," Jackson said of Whitfield and Spencer.
Kinston coach Ken Whitehurst saw his team lose to a county rival for the second straight week, but he said he was happier on Friday than in the 28-0 loss to South Lenoir on Aug. 26.
"We're so much better than we were a week ago," Whitehurst said. "We have a bunch of young guys fighting hard. I've got a bunch of kids out here that fought their guts out. I'm pleased with what we did tonight."
The Vikings, who play at West Craven next Friday, were led by Koonce's 112 yards on 11 carries. Kinston junior quarterback Antonio Whitfield, who is substituting for injured senior Jamar Carraway, completed three of 15 passes for 26 yards and one touchdown.
The Hawks now turn their attention to the annual Pigskin Classic rivalry game with South Lenoir, which upset West Craven, 18-14, on Friday night.
The game will be big for several reasons. The Pigskin Classic trophy has been held by the Hawks the past seven years. Also, the Freedom Cup, a trophy awarded by The Free Press to the public school team that wins the most games in Lenoir County, will be handed out for the first time.
South Lenoir enters the game with a 3-0 record, the best start for a Blue Devils team since 1996.
"Next week is huge, it's very, very big," Spencer said. "I respect (South Lenoir's) victories but we're going to take it to them next Friday night."
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