WILSON – Needing his defense to play near perfect Friday night in the Eastern Plains Conference finale, Tarboro Vikings head coach Jeff Craddock couldn't have asked for a much better performance from his team as they shut out the Beddingfield Bruins 34-0 and captured their third conference title in four years.
"Our guys played great defense and we played well all around football," Craddock said. "Our defense stepped up to the challenge and made the big plays."
Coming into the game, Craddock was worried about Beddingfield making big plays with their passing attack, but Tarboro made sure that didn't happen. They only gave up one play that was over 20 yards and also had two interceptions which came at the expense of Aaron Moore in the first half. Tarboro dropped three other interception opportunities. The Vikings held the Bruins to only 14 yards rushing and just 86 passing yards.
"We started on Monday telling the guys what they needed to do to win," Craddock said. "I made sure before the game I told them one last time and reminded them about their passing attack and I think we responded."
Playing without their star running back Quentin Roberson, didn't seem to phase the VIkings offensive attack. Junior Radja Bobbittt picked up the slack and turned in a stellar performance. He had the team put on his back offensively and carried the load like he was a seasoned veteran. Bobbitt finished the game with 15 carries for 160 yards. He finished the regular season with 977 yards rushing and scored 11 times.
Roberson went down last week in the Farmville Central game with a hurt shoulder. He had an MRI performed Monday and it revealed just a sprain. He will be out of action until at least the second round of the playoffs to make sure he is completely healed. Roberson has 1,007 yards this season in just eight games on just 102 touches. He has socred 16 times.
Craddock told his team all week they had to finish what they had started, speaking about an undefeated season going into the final week.
"We needed to make sure we stepped up and finished the job," Craddock said. "We just needed to execute to the best of our ability and if they didn't score then we would find a way to win. Our offense did a nice job and put points on the board."
Travonne Marshall got things going for the Vikings on their second possession when he found a wide open hole and busted it open for 24 yards for the first Tarboro touchdown. The extra point attempt was blocked and Tarboro led 6-0.
On Beddingfield's ensuing possession, they hit a big play for 36 yards to move into Tarboro territory. On the next play, Moore picked off a Javis Nixon pass and returned the interception to the Bruins' 9-yard line.
Tarboro couldn't cash that possession in though, because two plays later, Moore fumbled the ball on the 6-yard line and Beddingfield recovered.
Tarboro forced the Bruins to punt on that possession and countered on the first play from scrimmage when Bobbitt hit the left side of the Vikings offensive line and sprinted 43 yards for the TD. The two-point conversion failed and Tarboro led 12-0.
After the score Craddock told his team not to let up and to keep fighting. They responded again on defense. They forced the Bruins to punt on a four and out series again.
It took the Vikings seven plays to cap off the drive with another TD. This time Marshall found pay dirt again from 16-yards out for the score. Bobbitt added the two-point conversion and gave Tarboro a 20-0 lead.
"We were very focused unlike last week," Craddock said of the Farmville Central game. "We can play great football when we focus like that. It showed in the first and second half."
Tarboro wanted to put the game away early in the second half and tried to find a way to do that. They forced the Bruins to punt on their first possession of the second half. Tarboro got the ball back with 8:04 left in the third quarter and started from their own 20-yard line. With the offense clicking on all cylinders and they began to grind the ball down the field and picked up where they left off from the first half. They put a 15 play drive together that lasted almost eight minutes with Bobbitt capping it off with a 1-yard TD run. He also added the two-point conversion and Tarboro led 28-0.
"Radja runs the ball hard and had a good performance for us," Craddock said. "He is going to be a special player."
Craddock was pleased with the entire teams performance. He was glad he had backs to fill the void for Roberson's absence. Rayshawn Battle, Jerrod Bennett and Jonathan Castillo stepped in to help out in the back field.
The win capped off the second time in three years that the Vikings have gone undefeated in the regular season. Two years ago, they finished with a 16-0 record and won their second of three state titles.
Tarboro was given a No. 1 seed in the NCHSAA state playoffs 2-A East bracket and will have to host the same Beddingfield Bruins team again Friday night in Tarboro.