The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 3, 2013

Crunch time for Vikes, Cougars

Sports Correspondent

TARBORO — Tarboro and SouthWest Edgecombe got back to work this week after having the previous Friday off. They have begun preparing for their upcoming game Friday,  which will be their final non-confernece tune up before conference play begins.

Tarboro Vikings

Tarboro, which is ranked No. 2 in the state 1-A Associated Press poll, will have their toughest game of the season when they host the undefeated Southern Nash Firebirds. The Firebirds possess a tough ground attack and will bring their 5-0 record into Tarboro.

"This is our toughest opponent of the year," Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. "We have to be ready to play, because they are a good team. They have a lot of athletes on the team."

The 4-1 Vikings will have to find a way to shut down the Firebird rushing attack and senior quarterback Deon Lavender's passing attack.

Jaquay Mitchell leads the Firebirds with 489 rushing yards and has scored two touchdowns, while Richard Hall has given Southern Nash 323 yards on the ground and scored twice as well.

Lavender has a rushing TD and has thrown for 270 yards and three TDs. He also has been intercepted three times.

"We know what they like to do, but stopping them is a different thing," Craddock said. "We have to read our keys and play our best defensive game of the year."

Craddock knows the Firebirds possess lots of speed and are athletic and they run their offense well.

"We have to keep their quarterback in the pocket," Craddock said. "They like to come out throwing and jump on their opponents quick. We have to stop that and we can't give them the deep ball."

Offensively, Tarboro will rely on what they have 100 percent of the time this year, their running game. Craddock and his staff will look to senior running back Radja Bobbitt to give them some big plays. He leads the team and has rushed for 717 yards on 89 carries. He also leads Tarboro with 13 TDs. He is coming off of an impressive performance two weeks ago where he scored six TDs against Roanoke Rapids in a lopsided 56-19 win for Tarboro.

"Radja has worked hard for us this season and has ran the ball hard," Craddock said. "People know he is our go to guy. He is a small back, but he runs as hard as any other back and is good."

Tarboro will get Julian Lee, Matt Thompson and Jerrod Bennett back this week. They have been sidelined nursing injuries. Their return will help out on the defensive side of the ball.

The school will be pre-selling tickets Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. in the front office. No tickets will be sold after 1:30 p.m. until the gates open at the game.

SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars

SouthWest will travel to East Carteret to play the 3-2 Mariners. SouthWest is coming off of a heartbreaking 24-22 loss to Rocky Mount two weeks ago and has had two weeks to prepare for Mariners' potent passing attack.

This week will be a challenge for the Cougars, because they have to have their pass defense ready to perform at the highest level.

"We have a long ride ahead of us but we will be ready to play," Cougars coach Jonathan Cobb said. "They are solid on both sides of the ball and have some athletes."

They are facing a Mariners quarterback, Brennan Lewis, who has thrown for 905 yards and eight TDs in five games. He has also been intercepted five times and has a 60 percent completion percentage.

Lewis has three targets he likes to get the ball too. Jacque Brown and Ty Mason are the top two receivers on the team. Brown has 329 receiving yards and has caught two TDs, while Mason has caught 10 passes for 335 yards and has scored three times. Tre Stewart has also been used in the passing attack. He has caught nine passes for 202 yards and has scored three times.

"Their quarterback can throw the ball and they have some receivers who can go up and make the plays," Cobb said. "We have to be ready for Wing-T and Spread formations. We will be well prepared defensively we just have to make the plays."

The Mariners have just one back that has rushed for over 100 yards all season, which is Dominic Carter. He has 29 carries for 126 yards.

The Cougars do get junior running back Devontrell Hyman back this week. He is SouthWest's leading rusher. They will also look for Barry Smith and marcus Williams to give them some big yards like they did against Rocky Mount when Hyman was sidelined with an injury.

"We are multi layered in the back field," Cobb said. "We have to make some things happen on offense and we need to stay healthy the rest of the week heading into the game."