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Raiders to play for state title

One thing is certain in a fall sports season full of uncertainty.
The Pungo Christian Academy football season will end this weekend as the Raiders battle the Bethel Christian (Kinston) Trojans for the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II state championship.
However, the teams didn’t find out until late Tuesday afternoon that the game would be played Friday at 7 p.m. at Community Christian in Wilson.
“We wanted Friday night and Bethel wanted Saturday afternoon, so it took a while to work it out,” said PCA coach Stacy Keech. “We’re glad it’s Friday, but I’m sure both teams will be ready to go.”
The Raiders (4-1) advanced to their first title game with a 50-22 rout of Lawrence Academy last Friday in Merry Hill. Junior Fortino Beltran continued to show off his versatility with six touchdowns and 282 all-purpose yards. All three of his pass receptions went for touchdowns, including one of 90 yards. He found the end zone once on the ground, threw a 10-yard scoring pass and returned an interception 70 yards for another TD. Beltran added a team-best eight tackles on defense.
“He has a lot of talent and his ability to juke and cut back served him very well on a wet field,” Keech said. “We had big plays on offense and our defense was outstanding as well.”
Junior Josh Reynolds caught six passes on the night, three from his quarterback Tristen Mann and three from the Lawrence QB accounting for half of the Raiders six interceptions.
Meanwhile, Bethel routed Community Christian, 60-14, at home to set up the rematch for the championship.
PCA prevailed 46-22 at home back in early October. The Raiders trailed 22-20 at halftime before Beltran led a second half offensive explosion and the defense pitched a second half shutout. The elusive speedster ended with 303 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns.
“We’re better in all phases, but they are too,” Keech said. “Bethel does a great job of running the ball between the tackles, but we’ve improved at stopping that. We’ll go through our normal practice routine this week while continuing to work on fundamentals and the other things that help us win.
PCA is in its fourth season as a varsity program after two seasons of JV only. The school had a football team back in the 1980s, but this is the first chance to win it all.
“Our kids are super excited and know it matters a lot for our school to have a chance to win a state championship in football. They know they have a chance to make history by being the first team to do it, but we have to stay focused on playing our game to get there.”

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