Being put into tough situations isn't what the Tarboro Vikings and their head coach Jeff Craddock are used too this season. They have been beating teams by double digits this season. They haven't faced a lot of adversity or challenges this year, but they were put in both situations Friday night when the Kinston Vikings battled back from a 14 and 21 point deficit to cut Tarboro's lead to seven in the fourth quarter with just over six minutes left to play. Kinston had the ball driving inside Tarboro territory, but a big play by Tarboro's junior defensive end Keithion Battle saved Tarboro.
Kinston was driving inside Tarboro territory and they ran an option to the right side and Kinston quarterback VeQuain Joyner went to pitch the ball to a running back and Battle knocked the ball down and recovered the fumble to shut down Kinston’s drive and give Tarboro the 34-27 win.
With the win, Tarboro is now in sole possession of first place in the Eastern Plains Conference sitting at 3-0 and they are 7-0 overall. They have a 15 game winning streak now.
"We aren't a great team but we are good," Craddock said. "We have been in games where we have had chances to put teams away and didn't."
Craddock said if his team could have drove down the field and scored then that would have put the dagger into Kinston and gave them huge lead and they wouldn't have had to battle in the end like they did.
"I am just glad Keithion made the play he did," Craddock said. "We make the big plays when we have to but we should not have been in that situation to have to make that play. We should've put them away on the drive before that."
After Kinston scored on a 17 yard run by Raheem Freeland they cut into the Tarboro lead and trailed 34-20 with 11:52 left to play in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kinston set up for an onside kick and they recovered the football. They put a seven play, 47-yard drive together and capped it off when Joyner connected with Denzel Keyes on a 22-yard pass. Tarboro's lead was cut to seven points 34-27.
Again on the ensuing kickoff, Kinston recovered yet another onside kick. On the first play of that series, Tarboro's big defensive end, Tyquan Lewis came around the edge and hit Joyner and forced Kinston to lose six yards. Three plays later, Kinston turned the ball over on downs with just over six minutes left to play.
Kinston's defense held Tarboro and forced them to punt after a seven play drive that was stalled.
"We didn't line up right and we didn't run the play action like we were suppose to and that caused us to have to punt because we didn't get the yards we had been getting earlier in the game," Craddock said. "It is ridiculous that we couldn't execute like we had been doing the entire game."
On the ensuing Kinston drive that is when Battle made the big play on a second and 16 from the Tarboro 46 yard line.
"I give my kids credit, they didn't quit and stuck in there and made the big plays when they needed to," Craddock said. They fought hard and made the play at the end of the game and won."
Senior fullback Travonne Marshall was the work horse for Tarboro. He scored three times and made the big plays defensively when they needed to be made. Marshall scored on a one yard run in the first quarter, seven yard run in the second quarter and a three yard run in the third. He finished the game with 63 yards.
Tarboro continued to let Kinston stay in the game after they opened up the lead early and then Kinston battled back.
Craddock said he didn't think he had a great team, but they were a good team that plays hard. He also said on the special teams that he had two main guys that had to take a break and the other guys that were out there didn't make the plays like they are suppose too.
"We are still making to many mistakes," Craddock said. "I tell the kids all the time it is a long game and not to get to pumped up from the beginning because there is a lot of football to play each Friday."
Craddock made a move defensively again this week and used a three man front line on defense. Defensively Craddock always tells his players that they are to play assignment football. His team didn't do that early and he made adjustments.
Craddock and his Vikings have to go back to the drawing board, because they are hosting a SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars team this week that will be looking for revenge from last years 21-19 loss.
SouthWest is sitting at 3-1 in the conference and is looking to come into Tarboro and shake things up in the conference standings.
This will be the last time that Craddock and long time friend Raymond Cobb battle each other on the football field. Cobb holds a 5-3 win lead over Craddock since Cobb has been at SouthWest.