With the assistance of three questionable plays by Kinston, the Tarboro Vikings dominated the second half and cruised to a 48-14 victory Friday night in the second round of the 2-A NCHSAA playoffs.
The 3-time defending 2-A state champion Vikings recovered two onside kicks and stopped Kinston on a critical fourth down play and scored on all three of those possessions. Those three questionable plays were called when the game was still up for grabs.
Kinston trailed only 12-7 at halftime but the visitors appeared to have had the better first half offensively. Kinston’s quarterback VeQuain Joyner surgically orchestrated his team up and down the field but was not able to score until a 70-yard drive in 40 seconds that ended with a 25 yard pass to Kwari Ham. The drive stunned the Vikings and their fans as it appeared that Kinston had seized the momentum. Joyner was 14-for-17 for 183 yards in the first half. He led his team in the redzone twice but the Vikings’ defense did not allow them to score.
At halftime the Vikings fans appeared to be sitting at the edge of their seats in anticipation of a dogfight in the second half. It never happened.
On the opening kickoff, Kinston attempted an onside kick. The ball bounced to the 50-yard line and into the hands of Viking Travonne Marshall who dashed up the middle untouched for a touchdown. Kinston scored again in the third and trailed 28-14 and afterward kicked another onside kick. This time the ball was recovered by Viking Antonio Winstead on Kinston’s 48 yard line. Five plays later, Radja Bobbit trotted in the endzone from 19 yards out and Marshall added the 2-point conversion and the Vikings took a 36-14 lead.
The third questionable called came on Kinston’s ensuing drive when Kinston was facing a 4th-down-in-12 on their own 38 yard line. Kinston opted to go for it and was held to one yard. Eight plays later Bobbit scored his fourth TD of the night on a 2-yard run. Bobbit led the Vikings rushing with 16 carries for 115 yards.
If there was a game ball to be handed out, Bobbit would have to share it with his teammate Marshall, who made major contributions on defense, offense and special teams. Marshall scored the first touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run. Defensively he made at least three bone crushing hits and on special teams he returned an onside kick 50 yards for a touchdown.
Marshall’s onside kick touchdown was the turning point of the game. Kinston had success with recovering two onside kicks against the Vikings during a regular season game on the same field during the Eastern Plains Conference matchup earlier this year. Tarboro was prepared for it Friday night.
“We were prepared for it but we weren’t prepared for them to go to the back side,” Marshall said. “It came right up the middle of the field. When I caught it, I knew that it was going to be a big play. Everything clicked for us in the second half.”
Tarboro Coach Jeff Craddock agreed.
“We played a tough first half and we were up 12-7,” he said. “The only thing that irritated me was it seem like they were a little more physical than we were on the line of scrimmage. It seems like they were hitting us in the mouth a little harder than we were hitting them. So I said, ‘Let’s go out there and man up a little bit. This is our home. This is our turf. We made just a few adjustments and I think we played the best second half of the year.”
The victory pushed Tarboro's winning streak to 20 games dating back to last year.
Tarboro will be at home against Northeastern Friday night in the third round of the playoffs. The Vikings have not lost a home game since 2007 when they lost SouthWest.