09/25/05 — Warriors-Apex play to draw

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Warriors-Apex play to draw

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on September 25, 2005 2:15 AM

In sports, it's been said that a tie is like kissing your sister.

Don't tell that to Eastern Wayne.

In a physical game that saw plenty of defense, a safety, a kicker nail 43-yard field goal yet shank an extra point, few penalties and even fewer turnovers, the Warriors took on Class 4-A Apex on Friday night and fought the visiting Cougars to a 9-9 draw at Little Big Horn.

"It feels good," said junior Kendrick Best, who caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. "We went into this game as an underdog and everybody thought we were going to lose."

The "underdogs," however, surged out to a 9-0 lead just over six minutes into the contest.

Eastern Wayne (3-1-1) forced Apex (3-1-1) to go three-and-out on its first possession, and a snap well over punter Forrest Moog's head was kicked out of the back of the end zone by Moog for a safety that gave the Warriors a 2-0 lead.

"He did what we taught (Moog) to do," said Apex coach Bob Wolfe, a Goldsboro High graduate who coached at Eastern Wayne from 1969-70 and 1984-89. "I'd rather give up two points than six."

After the Warriors returned the ensuing free kick to the 50, Eastern Wayne rolled down the field as senior quarterback Tyler Ham found running back Andrew Blevins for a 19-yard completion, senior fullback Al Graham bulled his way 11 yards to the Apex 20, and Ham finished the drive with a pretty pass hauled in by an outstretched Best in the end zone.

"It was just a good throw," Best said. "I looked up and it was right there."

Best finished with a game-high two receptions for 34 yards, plus ran for 47 yards on seven carries.

Apex cut into the Warrior lead on the very next play from scrimmage as quarterback Mike Billings faked a handoff up the middle and raced 56 yards untouched for a touchdown.

Moog, however, missed the extra point to keep the score at 9-6.

The Cougars forced a three-and-out, then returned a punt to the Eastern Wayne 23. But junior defensive back Darius Canida intercepted a Billings pass in the end zone to thwart the scoring opportunity after Apex had driven down to the Warriors 8.

The Cougars finished the game 0-for-4 passing with the interception. The pick would be the only turnover in a clean game that only had six total penalties for 40 yards.

"I think that (interception) was the turning point right there," Wolfe said. "I wouldn't say we would have won if we had scored there, but it would have given us some momentum."

"We came out of the gate well," Eastern Wayne coach Jeff Price said. "We had a couple of bonehead errors that let them come back, but I was proud of the effort and proud of our team."

Apex held the ball for nearly eight minutes in the second quarter, but could only manage a 43-yard field goal by Moog that sneaked over the crossbar with 14 seconds left in the half to tie the game at nine.

It turned out to be the final points of the night.

"It was a hard-fought game," Wolfe said. "Eastern Wayne did a good job of running the ball and were really physical out there."

Apex tried to wear down the Warriors in the second half by using a one-two punch of 5-foot-9, 209-pound fullback Robert Kaukereit and the shifty Billings. Kaukereit finished with a game-high 117 yards on 20 carries and Billings had 107 yards on 12 attempts, but the Cougars could get no closer than the Eastern Wayne 31 as Moog missed a 44-yard field goal in early the fourth quarter.

Eastern Wayne had one last chance with 56 second left in the game as the Warriors got the ball back on their own 20. Ham had a 20-yard scramble, and a pass interference penalty pushed the ball to the Apex 45 with 30 seconds left.

Ham found Blevins for a 2-yard gain after an incomplete pass, but was sacked with seven seconds left, then was sacked again as time ran out.

The coaches had agreed before the contest that if the endowment game was tied after four quarters, there would be no overtime.

"Those were two good football teams," Price said. "We took each other to the mat, but there was no pin -- so it was a draw."

NOTES: Eastern Wayne hits the road this Friday to play at North Lenoir at 7:30 p.m. ... Blevins had 49 yards rushing on seven carries while Graham had 48 yards on 11 hauls. Ham was 5-of-10 passing for 59 yards and a TD. ... Junior linebacker Adrian Black was back on the field for the Warriors on Friday after missing the previous week with a bruised elbow. ... Eastern Wayne did not have a penalty on offense as all four of its penalties were offsides calls on the defense. ... Wolfe said he enjoyed being back at Eastern Wayne. "It's great," he said. "There are a lot of good memories here."