Fighting for a spot in the third round of the NCHSAA state playoffs is what all three Edgecombe County football teams will be doing Friday night as they continue to prepare for their opponents. Two of the three teams are at home and that could be the same way next week vying they win.
The Tarboro Vikings are fighting for a trip to their fifth straight state championship game appearance, but they have to get through a familiar opponent before they can advance to the next round. Tarboro will host the Kinston Vikings in the second round of the playoffs. Tarboro defeated Kinston 34-27 in Eastern Plains Conference action during week seven of the regular season.
Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock said the game will be a tough matchup, because they haven't defended the option against them that well in the last two meetings. Craddock knows that every week they have to play the best game of the season or their season will be over.
"They are as scary of a team that you can play," Craddock said. "They are playing good football right now after going through a funk. They are back on the right track and playing well."
Kinston is coming into Tarboro with a chip on their shoulder and will be ready to play after the early season loss to them.
One of the key factors for Tarboro to stop Kinston's potent offensive attack will be to defend receiver Denzel Keyes. He is a driving force and has a good set of hands and can go above defenders and catch passes. He caught two touchdown passes in their first meeting.
The second key for Tarboro to be successful is going to be to keep Kinston's offense off of the field. Tarboro has to control the clock and the football.
Craddock knows when Kinston's offense is on the field they are subject to do all kind of damage if their offense is clicking.
Another thing Tarboro has to work on is the on-side kick. Kinston was successful in the first meeting when they recovered two on-side kicks and drove down the field and scored on Tarboro.
"They can score points quicker then any team we have played," Craddock said. "I want to ball control them and on defense we have to limit the big plays."
To keep the big play from happening, Tarboro has to keep Kinston's quarterback in the pocket and not let him scramble around. For that to happen, defensive end Tyquan Lewis and middle linebackers Travonne Marshall and Saiid Murphy will have to contain the quarterback.
"They are quick in the open field and can strike you vertically," Craddock said. "If we miss tackles then they can take advantage of that also. We have to contain them and keep them off of the field."
The SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars are coming off of a very dramatic come from behind win at East Duplin last week. Senior running back Gerald Hinton put the game in his hands and put his team on his back and carried the load on the final drive. He ran the ball eight times and scored with 11 seconds left in the game to give the Cougars the 30-26 victory. Hinton finished the game with 108 yards on the ground, 48 yards receiving and 68 return yards.
This week doesn't get any easier for the Cougars, because they are traveling to play a fast and aggressive Bunn Wildcats team that defeated North Brunswick 36-0. Bunn is 9-2 and are the No. 2 seed in the NCHSAA 2-AA East bracket.
Cougars head coach Raymond Cobb knows that if his team wants to advance to the next round they are going to have to play four strong quarters of football. They will have to be mistake free and will have to make the big plays when it matters most. They are going to have to use clock management and control the tempo. They are going to have to play good in all three phases of the game.
Cobb was very impressed after his team fought back and scored 24 points in the fourth quarter last week. He said his team played hard and never quit. That is what they have been about all season.
Quarterback Quay Wooten was also a factor in the win after he threw for 140 yards and connected on four big pass plays that helped the Cougars convert the following plays into touchdowns.
Cobb knows that his team was battled tested early on in the season when they played the tough non-conference schedule. He knew through those tough games that if they continued to fight and work hard it would pay off for them and it did.
The North Edgecombe Warriors are coming off of an impressive 30-12 victory in the first round of the playoffs against the Weldon Chargers.
North Edgecombe will host a 3-8 Princeton team who defeated the No. 1 seed North Duplin this past week 28-21. North Duplin had defeated Princeton 41-20 earlier in the season and Princeton shocked a lot of people after the win.
After the win last week, Warriors head coach Keith Parisher was pleased with the way his defense played the entire game. They took control early in the game and didn't let up. Parisher said he was pleased with the way the entire team played, because he knew they were capable of playing like that.
The Warriors defense is going to have to step up Friday and contain Princeton's two main threats. Princeton running back Johnny Frazier is going to be the key player for the Warriors to contain. He has rushed for 1,320 yards on 168 carries and has scored 17 TDs. Quarterback Michael Wooten can be a threat as well, because he has thrown for 761 yards and completed 64 of 125 passes.
The Warriors are in good position to make it to the eastern finals in two weeks if they can continue to win. They have the best record in the Mideast bracket after three of the top four teams were defeated on their home turf. North Edgecombe is sitting at 5-5 and has the best record in the bracket out of the teams remaining.
Last week, Parisher and his Warriors were put in a tough situation after their starting quarterback Clifton Dickens was suspended from school for two weeks for fighting. Parisher wasn't none to pleased with the situation, but knew he and his team had to move forward just one day before the playoffs. He asked Rontarious Graham to step in and fill the void at QB. Graham helped lead the Warriors offense last week like a seasoned veteran. He didn't miss a beat.
“He (Graham) knew what he was doing,” Parisher said. “He’s a smart kid and knows his plays … he just needed a couple of snaps (at the star of the game).”
The Warriors were without senior star Darius Phillips in the second half, because with a 22-0 halftime lead Parisher decided to rest him.
The Warriors used four backs last week to help guide them to the win. Travonte Collins led all rushers with 129 yards on just 11 carries and scored three times, while QUantravis Harris, Antoine Pittman and Jarius Collins all chipped in with big runs.