By VAN HOLLAND
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The final week of high school football's regular season has arrived. This is week 12 and two of the three teams have secured an automatic bid for the playoffs and another has to win to be guaranteed a spot.
Tarboro won the Two Rivers Conference title last week and North Edgecombe earned themselves a playoff spot when they defeated South Creek Friday. The two will go head-to-head Friday in Leggett.
SouthWest is sitting in position where they can help themselves with a win against Beddingfield Friday in Pinetops, but a loss could end their season and end the Cougars streak of playoff appearances at nine straight.
Tarboro Vikings vs North Edgecombe Warriors
Tarboro is sitting in the drivers seat heading into their final game against county and rival North Edgecombe.
The Vikings (8-2, 4-0), who are ranked fourth in the state in 1-A, has beaten each of their conference opponents handily through the first four weeks. They're averaging a margin of defeat by 47.5 points and are averaging 58 points offensively in the conference.
North Edgecombe (5-4, 2-2) is averaging just 16.5 points per game and will possibly be without star running back Antwoin Pittman and quarterback Jacoby Bullock. Pittman re-injured his shoulder against South Creek and Bullock is serving his final game of his suspension.
Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock has worked his defense hard this week and prepared for Warrior running back Jarius Collins, who rushed for 229 yards and scored three times last week.
"We haven't changed anything this week, because we are preparing for them (North Edgecombe) just like we do any other opponent," Craddock said. "We have concentrated on getting our defense better again this week and have continued to work on hanging on to the football."
Fumbles have been a problem for Tarboro over the past four weeks. They have fumbled 11 times in two games, but have only managed to lose four of them.
Sophomore Loody Hinton has locked in the starting spot at quarterback after guiding the Vikings to two wins.
North Edgecombe will have to play near perfect Friday when they host the Vikings. Coach Keith Parisher knows his team will have to stay in the game mentally and play mistake free to be successful.
"We have to stay focused, because they don't beat themselves," Parisher said. "We have to play mistake free and do what we have to offensively. We will have to change things around and mix up our offense."
North Edgecombe will finish fourth in the conference regardless of what happens as long as Northampton defeats Rocky Mount Prep, because the Warriors and Northampton are tied for third, but Northampton beat the Warriors head-to-head this season.
SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars vs Beddingfield Bruins
The Cougars are hanging in the balance and are facing a tough Beddingfield Bruins team who is sitting at 6-4 overall and 3-1 in Eastern Plains Conference. SouthWest is 5-5 and 2-2 in conference, but a win could give the Cougars the edge in the conference standings and possibly a good seed heading into the playoffs.
The last game of the season could be the biggest of Cougars first-year coach Jonathan Cobb's career thus far. He has coached in some big games this season, but Friday could depend on if the Cougars make the playoffs or not.
"We have to come out ready to play Friday night," Cobb said. "We can't make any mistakes and we have to take advantage of theirs."
SouthWest will have to defend the Bruins quarterback Kavajae Ellis. He's thrown for 1,283 yards this season and 13 touchdowns. He has managed to throw six interceptions though. Ellis has also rushed for five touchdowns.
"We have to put pressure on their quarterback," Cobb said. "We can't get beat by the long ball and we are going to have to defend well."
Offensively the Cougars will have to be ready for blitzes, because the Bruins will send their linebackers on almost every play.
"Our offensive line has been working hard this week on defending the blitz," Cobb said. "We just have to do a good job upfront and make sure we can manage some big plays."
Cobb said it's awesome to be able to coach in such a big game this time of the season. He's excited, because he knows it's going to be a big time atmosphere.