What turned out as a battle of offenses fell in the Tarboro Vikings favor Friday night when they hosted the North Pitt Panthers in the first game of Eastern Plains Conference action. Tarboro gained their yards on the ground and North Pitt gained theirs through the air. It was a matter of who could score the most points and hold their opponent in the end.
The Vikings prevailed and defeated the Panthers 41-24.
Tarboro improves to 5-0 overall and are 1-0 in conference.
"A win is a win and we are happy with them but we need to see more progress from our guys on the defensive side of the ball," Vikings head coach Jeff Craddock. "We have to quite giving up the big plays on third downs. We can't continue to play like we are defensively."
With defense being a major problem for the Vikings this season, Tarboro continues to give up the big plays on crucial plays. Tarboro has given up a massive amount of points this season, but they have been able to overcome that by outscoring their opponents.
"Defense has been our downfall all season," Craddock said. "We prepared for what they were going to do but their kids made some great plays. The quarterback put the ball on the money and they made one handed catches."
Quentin Roberson was the spark plug again for the Vikings offensively once again.
With Tarboro trailing 17-14 at halftime, the Vikings came back out of the locker room for the second half with more intensity and fire in their eyes. It showed on the opening kickoff to start the second half. Roberson caught the ball at the one yard line and hit the Vikings sideline and sprinted 81 yards and was tackled at the 18 yard line. On first and 10, Tarboro was called for a false start which backed them up to the 23 yard line. On the ensuing play, Roberson took the handoff and busted up the middle for 23 yards for the touchdown. Travonne Marshall added the extra point and the Vikings took the 21-17 lead.
That lead didn't last long though, because North Pitt put a seven play, 77 yard drive together. Tarboro's defense folded once again on a crucial fourth down play. The Panthers had the ball at midfield facing a fourth and six situation. Panthers quarterback Chris Perry gave a hard snap count and drew the Vikings offsides which gave the Panthers a fourth and one from the 45. Panthers running back Brian Staton took the handoff up the middle and rambled 45 yards for the TD. North Pitt took the lead back and went up 24-21.
"We can't continue to give up those big plays and continue to win like we have," Craddock said. "Our defense has to step up and make the plays when it matters."
The Panthers lead didn't last long and it was all Tarboro from there.
Two Viking possessions later, Roberson scored from five yards out to give Tarboro a 27-24 lead with 5:52 left in the third quarter.
Tarboro was set up from just five yards out when linebacker Saiid Murphy stripped the ball from Perry's hands and Antonio Winstead recovered the loose ball.
On North Pitt's ensuing possession, Vikings defensive back Najee Brown intercepted Perry pass. Brown had two interceptions in the game.
Tarboro took advantage of the Panther turnover and turned it into points when Radja Bobbitt scored on a 36 yard TD run to give Tarboro a 35-24 lead.
With 2:50 left to play in the game, Tarboro put the game away for good when Bobbitt scored another TD from 45 yards out to push the Vikings lead to 41-24 and help seal them win for them.
Roberson led Tarboro offensively with 175 yards on 21 carries and scored three TDs. Craddock sat Roberson out of the game last week against North Edgecombe so he could rest his hamstrings, but he came back in full effect and was running on fresh legs.
"Quentin is a great football player," Craddock said. "He ran hard for us behind some good blocking up front and was able to make some big plays for us. It was nice to have him back healthy."
Murphy returned to action for the first time in four weeks after being sidelined with an ankle injury. He was an impact on defense, but struggled at times on passing routes when he was unable to get back and cover the routes inside.
"Saidd was a little rusty because he hasn't played since week one," Craddock said. "When he gets to 100 percent we will be stronger up the middle. He will get there since we have to weeks to prepare before our next game."
With Tarboro having a bye week coming up, Craddock said he going to take a week of practice and concentrate on his team and get the defense better.
"We are going to work on our defense so when we come back to play in two weeks we will look better defensively," Craddock said. "We have to work on the fundamentals."