By VAN HOLLAND
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Crunch time has arrived for area teams. Tarboro has sealed their fate and are guaranteed a playoff spot, but SouthWest Edgecombe and North Edgecombe are sitting in the cellar in their respective conferences holding their own destiny in their hands.
SouthWest and North Edgecombe both lost key conference games last week that would've put them in second place, but the loses moved them down two spots to fourth. They have to win at least one more to have a chance of making the playoffs. Both team's situations are similar. Their games this week are against the last place teams in their conference, which should be sure wins.
Tarboro's game against Northampton has been moved up to tonight at 7 p.m. due to inclement weather that is suppose to move into the area Friday.
Tarboro (7-2, 3-0) is sitting in first place alone and have beat each of their Two Rivers Conference opponents convincingly through the first three weeks of action. The Vikings are averaging 59 points per game and are only allowing their opponents to score 10 points per game.
Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock is pleased with his defense's performance during the three week stretch. They pitched their third shutout of the season last week when they blew out Riverside 48-0.
The Jaguars, who are in second with a 2-1 record in conference, average 35 points per game and are allowing 23 points a game.
This week they have prepared for Northampton's quarterback Keion Crossen. He has single-handily carried the Jaguars offense. He has rushed for over 1,200 yards this season and leads the team with 15 touchdowns, but when it comes to their air attack, Crossen throws the long ball and doesn't try to complete any short passes under 15 yards. He has thrown six interceptions and five TDs. They will also give the ball to running back Waquel Ponton. He has rushed for over 400 yards.
"We have to play good assignment football," Vikings coach Jeff Craddock said. "Their offense presents some challenges and have skills at different positions. They score a lot of points so we know we have to show up and be ready to play."
Craddock believes that Crossen is possibly the best athlete in the conference and knows his defense has to shut him down.
"We have to do a good job on him, but we can't forget about their backs," Craddock said. "They'll get in their wish bone set and power you to death. It's going to come down to what sets they are lining up in and we have to be ready to stop them."
Tarboro's offense struggled last week when they fumbled the ball nine times. All of the miscues were on convincing drives where they could've scored and that is something they have worked on at practice this week.
"We've worked on holding onto the ball," Craddock said. "We can't fumble the ball that many times in big games and expect to win each week. We're faking well and I'm pleased with that."
Tarboro has made a move at the QB spot. They will start sophomore Loody Hinton this week. Craddock feels that's their best option right now and said Daniel Whitaker has to be ready when called upon.
The Warriors are coming off a disappointing loss to Northampton last week. The Warriors offense was without top rusher Antwoin Pittman. He has been the key part of the Warriors ground attack. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season and will be back in the lineup to contribute.
The Warriors defense has been the main question this season. They've had trouble tackling and last week they gave up 42 points.
"We've worked on tackling again this week," Warriors coach Keith Parisher said. "We have to get some three-and-outs this week and turn them into positive drives."
Their test this week will be through the air against a high flying South Creek team who runs the spread offense. The Panthers throw the ball half the time and QB Brandon Battle has thrown for over 600 yards this season and has thrown five TDs and four interceptions.
Their ground attack is led by Markeil Farmer, who has rushed for over 500 yards and scored six times. Romalik Parker has added 350 yards on the ground.
"We have to come out ready to play," Parisher said. "Our defense needs to make the plays."
North Edgecombe has worked on cutting down on mistakes this week. They have turned the ball over too much and Parisher wants them to cut down on that.
SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars
SouthWest has found themselves on a two game losing skid and coach Jonathan Cobb wants to find a way to get them back on track. What better way to do it when they travel to play the last place team in the Eastern Plains Conference, 0-9 North Johnston.
"We have worked on ourselves this week at practice," Cobb said. "We have to get back to the basics and get each player to start doing their jobs."
Cobb knows this game will be a good one to get back on track, because they need to win the next two games to earn a playoff spot.
The offense will be without junior running back Devontrell Hyman for the second week straight and fourth time this season. He hurt his achilles tendon on the first carry of the game last week. So Cobb has decided to hold him out one more game and have him healthy in the season finale.
Cobb and his Cougars have been making too many mistakes on the field the past couple of weeks, which has caused some concerns for him, so he called a team meeting Tuesday to discuss it.
"We had to take care of internal issues," Cobb said. "I told them how important it was to finish and how important it is to have some leadership on the team. That's something that has been lacking all season."
The Cougars defense will face a spread offense for the third week straight and it will help them prepare for Beddingfield the following week.
The Cougars have practiced this week with wet footballs, because of the conditions Friday night with rain moving into the area. Cobb wants to run some plays that North Johnston hasn't seen on film, so he can get the upper hand quickly and try to put the game out of reach early on.
"We have to execute our game plan," Cobb said. "We have to play through and learn how to handle adversity and what better time to do it then now."