By VAN HOLLAND
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The Tarboro Vikings had the tides turned on them Friday night in the third round of the NCHSAA 1-AA playoffs when they were eliminated from the playoffs after they were defeated 35-10 by the Wallace-Rose Hill Bulldogs. The loss was their first at home in the playoffs in over 10 years.
"They were the better football team," Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. "They outplayed us. They out coached us and that's what you need in the third round."
Tarboro had been beating up on their opponents over the last seven weeks and had outscored their opponents in the playoffs 85-7 heading into the game. But Friday they saw exactly what it was like to have it done to them.
Wallace-Rose Hill scored 28 unanswered points and were forced to punt just once. Tarboro on the other hand, scored points on their first two possessions and were completely shut down from that point on.
Tarboro was held to 203 yards of total offense and fumbled the ball six times – only one lost. They were held to just two first downs on their final five possessions and couldn't get their offense flowing, because of negative plays. Tarboro had 10 plays that resulted in negative yards.
"We've done it all year, but against weaker opponents we were able to overcome it," Craddock said. "We talked about it all year – the turnovers, putting the ball on the ground and the penalties. You can't do that in the third round of the playoffs. You have to play your best football and we didn't do that. That's why we're going home this year."
This is the first season in the past six, that Tarboro hasn't made their way to the Eastern Regionals and the state championship game. This year, it wasn't because they didn't have the talent, it was because they didn't do the right things on offense and they didn't stop the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs scored on four of their final five possessions and each time, they went through the same gap on the right side of their offensive line to bust the play wide open. They managed to gain 302 yards of offense and their defense was sensational after giving up 10 points in the first quarter to Tarboro.
"The bigger the games get, the better you have to be," Craddock said. "We weren't very good tonight. They were faster than we were on the edge and they were able to stop us outside. Their defense is good and we got put in situations in the second half with long yardage and we tried to do things we weren't accustomed to doing."
Tarboro's seniors didn't see the loss coming. They had high expectations heading into the playoffs, because they were used to making it to the title game.
"We aren't use to losing at home, especially in a playoff game," Craddock said. "It was on us for not making the plays."
Tarboro's offense couldn't get any type of momentum going, because senior leader Radja Bobbitt came up limping on an open field run in the second quarter. He was tackled inside the 20-yard line and got up and limped to the sideline where he laid on his back in pain from an apparent hamstring injury.
Bobbitt managed to continue to play, but he wasn't his normal self running the ball. He finished the game with 118 yards on 19 carries and scored the lone touchdown on a 2-yard run.
In the second half, Craddock and his staff made an adjustment and inserted Tobias Pittman in at quarterback and moved sophomore Loody Hinton to the backfield. Pittman had negative 45 yards when he was hit in the backfield seven times.
"We were trying to get Loody the ball more," Craddock said. "We talked and we thought he was our second best playmaker and at quarterback there were only so many plays we could run to get him the football. We just wanted to get him a few more carries and we felt confident in Tobias at quarterback."
Senior linebacker Saiid Murphy was visibly shaken from the loss. He walked around hugging teammates and talking to fans after the game as he talked through the tears.
"This just breaks my heart," Murphy said as tears rolled down his cheek. "We put our all into. When you put your heart into something you expect to get a good result out. It just didn't happen that way. It hurts – it just really hurts."