In each of the past three seasons, the Wildcats have reached the Elite Eight of the Class 2-AA State Playoffs, only to be eliminated on the road. The trend continued Friday as undefeated Northside Jacksonville ended Bunn's campaign with a 28-10 victory.
By Geoff Neville
JACKSONVILLE -- The third-round blues continue to play a sad song for the Bunn High School football team.
In each of the past three seasons, the Wildcats have reached the Elite Eight of the Class 2-AA State Playoffs, only to be eliminated on the road.
The trend continued Friday as undefeated Northside Jacksonville ended Bunn's campaign with a 28-10 victory.
While Bunn has a playoff bugaboo of its own, so do the Monarchs -- they've yet to reach the state championship game despite making five semifinal appearances. Northside hopes to end that skein next Friday when the Monarchs host Carrboro with a berth in the finals at stake.
To get that far, Northside first had to find a way to derail Bunn's high-powered offense, which was led by prolific senior running back Tarik Cohen.
The Monarchs limited Bunn to just one first down in the opening half. Cohen picked up only 15 yards during that span before leaving with an ankle injury. He did not return in the second half.
"Our defense was lights out,'' said Northside coach Bob Eason. "Our defense was the difference in the game. (Cohen) as a very fast guy, but we've got 11 fast guys. Bunn has a great team -- it hurt them when (Cohen) went out of the game.''
With their defense locking down the Wildcats' attack, Northside countered with some old-fashioned power football out of the I-formation. The Monarchs also flashed the big-play ability of wide receiver/defensive back Josh Cabrera, who has drawn the interest of several Division I schools as a junior.
Northside struck on its second possession as Dwayne Johnson dove in from 1 yard out -- just three snaps after he had put his team in scoring position with a 35-yard burst.
On Bunn's first play following the score, Cabrera reeled in a tipped pass for an interception, and he returned the ball to the Wildcats' 5-yard line.
Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 2, Northside turned again to Johnson, who cut inside off a toss sweep for a touchdown that gave the Monarchs a 14-0 advantage with 2:19 remaining in the first quarter.
The Wildcats looked to be deflated, but their spirits were lifted when Johnathan Alston returned the ensuing kickoff up the middle for a 92-yard score. Freeman Jones tacked on the PAT and added a field goal just over two minutes into the second frame to bring Bunn back to within 13-10.
After an exchange of possessions, Cabrera came through with another interception, returning it 35 yards untouched up the home sideline to give Northside a 21-10 cushion with 5:30 remaining before the break.
Northside appeared on the verge of sealing the victory in the fourth period, but Bunn's Tevin Ferrell recovered a fumble and raced 95 yards for what would have been a clutch touchdown. But an illegal block nullified the score.
Penalties derailed Bunn for much of the game as the Wildcats committed 10 infractions -- many of them coming at inopportune times.
Given a second chance to come up with the clincher, Northside converted on Johnson's 8-yard TD scamper with 5:38 to play.