Editor and Publisher
John H. Walker
LEGGETT — An overachieving North Edgecombe’s Warrior football came face-to-face with reality here Friday night, falling 43-12 to Princeton in the second round of the state playoffs.
Playing with a quarterback who was playing in his second game … with a fullback who struggled to overcome injuries in order to be able to play and with an underclassmen-laden team, the Warriors didn’t have the tools to overcome the night’s adversity.
And that was perhaps when Keith Parisher and his staff did some of their best coaching of the season — after the final play. Huddled together at the 35-yard-line, the team was listening to Parrisher who, all of a sudden stopped and reached out toward Deonte Hatfield.
“Come here, son,” Parisher said, reaching out as the senior moved toward him. Parisher first reached up and touched his forehead, wiping away a spot of blood. Then, without lowering his hands, he moved to the bridge of his nose, where there was more blood. He wiped it away, as well.
Parisher hugged him and resumed his post-game talk.
“Don’t you hang your heads. Don’t you ever hang your heads when you give it everything you’ve got,” he said.
After each coach talked to the squad, Parisher started searching out his seniors. If one was kneeling, he knelt with them. If they were standing, he stood with them and, with each and every one, he hugged them and told them he loved them … that he was proud of them. His eyes were as red as theirs and his tears just as wet.
“This is the toughest part of the job,” he said. “I’ve done it before, but it still hurts.” Parisher said his group of seniors — there were nine on the roster for the final game — had been a group to count on.
“They’ve been dedicated to me,” he said. “When they found out I was taking over, they’ve done everything I’ve asked of them. Everything.”
Parisher said it was common knowledge the Warriors were starting over, but the effort was easier because of the leadership exhibited by his seniors.
He said it was the lack of overall experience on the squad that hurt them against Princeton.
“We didn’t adjust … we went with our instincts instead of what we knew we were supposed to do. It was just youth … overaggressiveness.”
The Warriors started strong, pinning 13 yards in losses on Princeton on the Bulldogs’ first three plays.
After a punt rolled dead on the North 18, the Warriors moved down the field in big steps — 24 yards by Travonte Collins, 17 by Quantravis Harris, eight by Antoine Pittman, five by Collins and eight more by Pittman before a nine-yard gain by Jarius Collins moved the ball to Princeton’s 12.
A pair of one-yard losses and a one-yard gain set up fourth-and-11 from the 13 before Jarius Collins took the ball around right end, but could only get to the five — turning the ball over on downs.
Quarterback Michael Wooten gained two on first down, then connected with Jamaal Allen on a 91-yard fly pattern down the left sidelines to the North two. On first-and-goal, Johnny Frasier crashed in from the two for the touchdown. Ryne Woodward’s kick made the score 7-0 with 4:16 left in the first period.
North came back to move the ball down the field, earning a first down on the Princeton 19 before a holding penalty negated a six-yard gain. A pair of losses kept the Warriors going in the wrong direction and Princeton eventually took over on its own 38.
Like North on its first possession, Princeton ate up turf in big pieces — 10, nine, 13 and 15 yards before an offside penalty set up Frasier for a 10-yard scoring run. Woodward made it 14-0 with 9:14 left in the half.
Princeton added another score before the half, taking advantage of a North Edgecombe fumble — the Warriors lost six of 11 on the night — to make it 22-0 at the half, although a diving interception in the end zone by Jacoby Bullock as the half ended kept the margin from being greater.
North got its first score on the opening drive of the second half, moving 53 yards on five plays — capped by a 19-yard trap by Pittman.
Princeton got the next three scores to go up 43-6 before North ended the game with a 10- play, 60-yard drive capped by a four-yard run by Lamarquise Ward as the clock ran out.