Devan Hairston ran wild for the second straight week to power West Stokes to a big victory on Thursday night in front of a television audience. Hairston rushed for 263 yards on 21 carries with four touchdowns as the Wildcats posted a 28-0 win against Walkertown in a nonconference game broadcasted on the Time Warner Cable Sports Channel.
A week after nearly hitting the 300-yard mark in a win at East Surry, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior running back scored on touchdown runs of 11, 50, 44 and 23 yards against the Wolfpack. Coach Jimmy Upchurch of West Stokes said the coaching staff has made it a priority to get Hairston more touches in recent weeks.
“The first two games he had 15 or 16 carries, and we didn’t feel like he was getting the ball enough,” Upchurch said. “Part of our success is getting the ball in his hands. He’s a really good player and a great kid. I’m tickled for him.”
Walkertown had no answer for him. Hairston broke a number of tackles on the Wildcats’ opening drive that included a 17-yard run on 4th and 4. Quarterback Reid Fulk hit Hairston on a screen pass to move the Wildcats inside the red zone. Fulk converted a 4th and 1, and on the next play, Hairston scored on an 11-yard run. Patrick Ellis split the uprights on the extra point try with 1:15 left in the first quarter.
Jordan Smith forced a Wolfpack fumble and Tristian Carter recovered on the first play of the second quarter. West (4-1) called Hairston’s number for three straight plays — the last of which went for 50 yards and a touchdown. Ellis converted the extra point with 10:52 to go in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead. Even after the breakout performance, Hairston saw room for improvement.
“We just need to execute more,” Hairston said. “The first play, we had a penalty. If we get the penalties (corrected), we’ll be all right. The O-line did really good tonight.”
“We may start off slow, but as the year wears on, our kids always get better,” Upchurch said. “We are improving every week. As long as I see that, I’m happy.”
The game did have its fair share of turnovers, penalties and a wild sequence midway through the second quarter. With the Wildcats ahead 14-0, Fulk completed a 50-yard pass play, but Nick Breen fumbled just before he reached the end zone and Isaiah Conrad recovered for Walkertown. On the next play, QB Kendrick Campbell hit Deante Whithers for an 88-yard reception. The speedy Whithers seemed headed for an apparent touchdown that would have made it a 14-7 game, but Whithers was chased down by a hustling Tacari Stokes at the 5-yard line. Parker Pratt intercepted Campbell’s screen pass attempt on the next play.
“That tackle saved us a touchdown,” said junior linebacker Tyler Walker, who broke the school record for tackles with 23 against East Surry in Week 4. “Then (Pratt) stepped up big and got the interception.”
Upchurch experienced the full range of emotions during the pivotal stretch in the game.
“I’m smiling from ear to ear, (Fulk) makes a great pass, we are going down the sideline, the old saying, you count your chickens before they hatch, I know we’ve got six points. I look up and we are fumbling the football. I couldn’t be more upset,” Upchurch said. “The next play they are going down the sideline and Tacari makes a great play. He never quit on the play. Then our defense steps up, which they did all night. That was bizarre, it really was.”
The Wolfpack never seriously threatened the rest of the way. Walkertown (1-4) managed only 30 rushing yards against the Wildcats. Campbell completed 11 of 19 passes for 187 yards but was intercepted three times (Pratt, Walker, Breen). West lost three fumbles in the game and both teams had a ton of penalties. West has committed 39 penalties in the first five games. The Wolfpack had to punt early in the second half and West punched in another touchdown. Hairston’s 44-yard scamper with 7:35 left in the third made it 21-0. His 23-yard run with 7:51 remaining in the game provided the final margin. West rushed 45 times for 335 yards. Stokes (10 carries, 44 yards) and Josh Grubb (5 carries, 27 yards) contributed to the ground attack. Fulk was 4 of 10 passing for 79 yards. Two of the Wolfpack’s second half drives ended in interceptions. Walkertown hosts Winston-Salem Prep next while the Wildcats travel to North Rowan in their final tuneup before conference play begins.
“We just have a good game plan every week,” Walker said. “We’ve got a real good coaching staff. We came together as a defense. The offense was moving the ball. We are starting to come together. Hopefully we’ll get everything sorted out by conference.”