With tonight being the final game of the regular season, the Tarboro Vikings are looking for a win and their second undefeated regular season in three years. For that to happen though, they are going to have to travel to WIlson and beat a shaky Beddingfield Bruins team who plays well in spurts. They can be unpredictable.
There are two keys for the Vikings to win. They can't give up the big plays nor can they turn the ball over. Tarboro has been below average as far as their passing defense is concerned this season. Vikings head coach Jeff Craddock knows his team can't give up the long ball when it comes to the Bruins passing attack. The Bruins quarterback Javis Nixon throws the ball almost 60 percent of the time and they run 40 percent.
"It is always concern when we face passing teams," Craddock said. "We have worked hard every day at practice on defending the pass this week. We adjust our practice schedule when we play teams like this who like to throw the ball."
The game is going to be a difficult one for the Vikings because the Bruins are athletic all over the field on both sides of the ball, which is another concern for Craddock. He just wants his team to go out and do what they have been doing all year and not try to get fancy and just play the game.
Tonight's game is very important to Craddock and his team, because it is the last one of the season and they are fighting for the Eastern Plains Conference championship. This will be the Vikings third in four years if they win. It will be their second outright title, because they were co-champs a couple of years ago.
Craddock said that is an accomplishment, because they play in a tough conference and it isn't easy winning games in the conference.
Winning the conference title was just one of Tarboro's goals this season. They also want to repeat once again as state champions.
Heading into tonight's game, Tarboro has what Craddock called a good week of practice. Tarboro will be without their star running back Quentin Roberson. He went down with a shoulder injury last week and was carried to the doctor. They put Roberson in a sling until he had a MRI preformed Monday. The MRI came back negative and showed Roberson had a strained ligament in his shoulder. He will be sidelined for two weeks and is expected to be back on the field in the second round of the playoffs.
Craddock said they will run the ball by committee tonight with Roberson out. Radja Bobbitt will start at his normal right halfback spot, while Travonne Marshall starts at fullback. The left halfback spot will be held down by three different players depending on the situation and how things are working out for the Vikings. Jerrod Bennett, Jonathan Castillo and Rayshawn Battle will share time tonight. Battle finished the game last week for the Vikings after Roberson went down with the injury and had six carries for 43 yards. Battle has impressed the Viking coaches.
"We have the guys who can fill in for Quentin," Craddock said. "We will play it by committee. All three guys can fill in for us and do a fine job."
If predictions hold, the Vikings will play the Bruins two consecutive weeks if they get the No. 1 seed in the NCHSAA 2-A East bracket.
Seeding and playoffs are far from Craddock's mind right now, because he wants to get through Beddingfield before he worries about the playoffs. Brackets will be released Saturday.
Tarboro hasn't received a decent seed in their four year run to the championship games and Craddock knows it was all for the best.
He said they will take whatever comes their way and make the best of it. In the past four years that has worked for Craddock and his Viking program.