Crunch time is here. All three county football teams are vying for a good seed in the NCHSAA state playoffs. With just four weeks left in the season, two of the three teams are fighting for a conference title and the other is just trying to stay alive and stay afloat in their conference.
The Eastern Plains Conference has turned into a battle of Edgecombe County teams. The Tarboro Vikings and SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars are both undefeated in the conference and have one more game left before the two teams meet for their regular annual meeting Oct. 12 in Tarboro.
Neither team has an easy task tonight though, because for both teams to stay alive and play for the conference title next week, they have to beat their opponents tonight.
Tarboro will be hosting the Kinston Vikings. Kinston has been struggling as of late and has lost three of their last four games which included a 56-49 loss to SouthWest three weeks ago.
Vikings head coach Jeff Craddock isn't taking Kinston lightly though, because he knows they have a good offensive system that can score on anyone quick. Kinston is averaging over 33 points per game.
Craddock has made a move defensively and has set up a defense he hopes can stop Kinston quarterback VeQuain Joyner, who threw for 206 yards and two TDs last week. Joyner has thrown for 1,259 yards and 16 TDs this season.
Craddock plans on coming out with a three man front line on defense and has Travonne Marshall in the middle of the field at linebacker. Marshall will be roaming and reading the Kinston offense. If he makes the big hits like has all season, then Kinston will probably go back to the ground game.
"We have to come out ready to play football because Kinston is going to be ready," Craddock said. "It would be nice to keep their offense on the sideline."
That may be a problem for Craddock and his Vikings, because they seemed to have a big play offensively on each series and isn't a team that can control the ball and the clock because of the big plays.
Craddock knows his team has to play great assignment football. His team has been making some improvements each week on defense even though it may not show up on the stat sheet.
"Our rush defense is getting better and better every week," Craddock said. "Our pass defense has played good in spurts."
Tarboro's offense is still clicking on all cylinders. They are averaging over 43 points per game and are allowing their opponents to score over 20 points per game.
Tarboro's key will be to hold down the Kinston offense and maintain their offense as they have all season.
For SouthWest, they will be hosting a North Pitt Panthers team that plays streaky football. The Panthers have a good passing attack and head coach Raymond Cobb knows his defense will have to step up and make the big plays if they want to stay undefeated in the conference like they did last week when the Cougars defense allowed only 230 yards of offense to the Beddingfield Bruins. They held the Bruins to just 48 yards of offense in the second half, which helped the Cougars seal their 32-13 win against Beddingfield.
SouthWest is averaging over 31 points per game, which is good considering the type of non-conference schedule Cobb put together for his team. They are allowing their opponents to score over 25 points per game.
"I scheduled the non-conference schedule like that because I knew it would help us out come conference time," Cobb said. "We are playing good football as of late and I hope we just keep it up."
SouthWest senior running back Gerald Hinton has been the spark plug for the Cougars this season offensively. He has gained 982 yards on 126 carries and has scored 15 times
The key to the Cougars winning will be to stop the Panthers passing attack and their running game they like to mix in. They will have to step up on offense and control the ball and not make mistakes.
For the North Edgecombe Warriors, they are looking to bounce back from a tough 50-14 loss to Northampton County. The Warriors have fallen into the cellar in the Tar-Roanoke Conference and are sitting at 2-4 overall and 0-2 in conference. They are hosting Kipp Pride tonight. Kipp Pride hasn't won a game this season and had to forfeit two games.
Head coach Keith Parisher just wants his team to continue to play hard on every play and not give up. He wants his guys to continue to fight and battle.
With the youth that Parisher has in his program, they are taking their bumps this season. He has a sophomore quarterback, two freshman running backs and a freshman center. He has other underclassmen scattered all over the field.
Now with just three games left in the conference, they have to win the remaining games to possibly make the playoffs.