North Johnston recovered from the first haymaker Bunn sent its way Thursday night, but not the second.
Bunn reeled off 30 unanswered points to start the second half and pulled away for a 51-20 victory after leading just 21-14 at halftime.
A 92-yard kick off return for a touchdown by Bunn’s Tevin Perry to open the second half started the scoring run by the Wildcats (1-1), a former conference foe for the Panthers.
“That second half kick off return just took the wind right out of our sails,” said North coach Scott Meserve. “Our defense played their hearts out all night we just put them in a lot of tough spots. We’ve grown up a lot in the past two weeks.
“There was a point where we were one catch or one tackle away from changing the game.”
After Bunn rolled out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, the Panthers (0-2) came alive in the second quarter when senior Trey Daniels intercepted a Bunn pass along the left sideline and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.
Daniels found the end zone again on North’s next drive, pulling in a 24-yard touchdown pass from fellow senior Montie Walker to get the Panthers within 21-14 at the break.
Special teams played a huge role for the Wildcats. In addition to Perry’s kick off return, Bunn’s Tommie Evans added a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Wildcats’ senior kicker Freeman Jones, a University of North Carolina recruit, hit a 45-yard field goal in the third quarter and all nine of his kick offs went for touchbacks on the night. He was six of seven on extra points.
“He’s a weapon,” said Bunn coach David Howle of Jones. “He’s the best one I’ve had. He missed a 54-yard field goal last week that was long enough but just wide, so leg isn’t going to be a problem for him.”
Including punts, North Johnston’s average starting spot on offense was its own 23-yard-line.
“We’ve got some guys who can run so we wanted to try to return the kick offs,” Meserve said. “We even talked about having the guys stand on the goal line and hope to catch it there.”
The Panthers (0-2) weren’t able to return any of Jones’ kick offs. In high school, any kick off that reaches the end zone is an automatic touchback.
Daniels added his third touchdown of the night to wrap up the scoring: a 82-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Despite the 0-2 start and giving up 100 points in two games, Meserve likes where his team is headed.
“We’ve got some great athletes like Trey and Montie, who is playing just his second game at quarterback,” Meserve said. “Our offensive line is young and growing. We’ve seen a lot of improvement in the past two weeks. We’re going to get better and better.”