After all of the trash talk this past week about the Tarboro Vikings defense being less then good, they proved themselves Friday night in the third round of the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs by defeating the Northeastern Eagles 52-24. The win sends the Vikings to their fifth straight Eastern Regional finals championship game where they have won four straight. The Vikings have won 18 straight playoff games dating back to the 2009 playoffs.
Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock was proud of his team for getting the win and advancing to the regional finals, but he wasn't pleased with their overall performance. He said his team played well in spurts but they weren't up to par and have a lot of things they need to work on this week before playing Friday.
Coming into the week of preparations, the Vikings learned that the Eagles coaching staff said that Tarboro's defense was weak at certain spots and they would be able to capitalize from that. The Vikings stood up to the challenge and answered everyone's question and held the Eagles to just 309 yards of total offense. The Eagles rushed for just 99 yards while throwing for 210 yards. Tarboro gained 511 yards on offense.
"Our deal is we don't listen to that mess and when we kick the ball off at 7:30 every week we are thinking about what we needed to do to execute," Craddock said. "We had a little fun with it earlier in the week and I rubbed the kids about it just a little bit and that was it."
It was all Radja Bobbitt and Quentin Roberson on the offensive side of the ball as they combined for 387 yards and five touchdowns.
Bobbitt racked up 181 yards on just five carries and scored twice in less then two quarters of action before he went down at the eight yard line after being tackled and had to be helped off the field. Bobbitt didn't play anymore for precautionary reasons.
"I don't think Radja was a surprise because Coach Moore said before the game he was a good player," Craddock said. "I think he had their attention and he didn't play the whole second half."
Bobbitt's counterpart, Roberson, picked up the slack and rushed for 206 yards on 17 carries and scored three TDs.
Roberson got things going to begin the game after he returned the opening kickoff 81 yards and gave Tarboro great field position. One play later, Travonne Marshall punched it in from 11 yards out. Roberson added the two-point conversion and gave Tarboro an 8-0 lead with just 20 seconds of action played.
After Northeastern returned the ensuing kickoff back to the Vikings' 18-yard line, Tarboro's defense stepped up to the challenge and held the Eagles to just a field with 8:47 left in the first Tarboro led 8-3.
On the ensuing possession, Tarboro started from their own 17-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Bobbitt broke free and found the sideline and rumbled 83 yards for the TD. Marshall added the two-point conversion which gave Tarboro the 16-3 lead.
Tarboro forced the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs on their next possession and took over at their own 10-yard line. This time, the Vikings controlled the ball and put an eight play drive together which was caped off by 51-yard TD run by Bobbitt. The conversion failed and Tarboro led 22-3 with 3:31 left in the first quarter.
Tarboro forced the Eagles to punt again on their next possession and the Vikings started their ensuing drive at their own 24-yard line. With just 10 seconds left in the first quarter, Vikings quarterback Aaron Moore found Bobbitt on a check down pass at the line of scrimmage. Bobbitt sprinted 57 yards and gave Tarboro a first down at the Eagles 23-yard line. After a 12-yard run by Marshall, Roberson punched it in from 11-yards out. He also added the two-point conversion and gave the Vikings a commanding 30-3 lead.
Tarboro's defense continued to play stellar, because on the ensuing Eagles possession, Tarboro forced Eagles wide receiver Marquise Whidbee to fumble. Marshall recovered the fumble and returned it back to midfield.
Tarboro's offense struggled during that possession and were forced to punt after just four plays. Both teams forced each other to punt on their next two possessions.
Northeastern capitalized on their next possession when they took over at the 24-yard line after a good punt return. Three plays later, Ge'Dari Liverman connected with Whidbee for a TD. The extra point was good and Tarboro led 30-10.
On the Vikings next possession, they had the ball and were driving inside the 10 after Bobbitt broke free and sprinted 39 yards. On a second and goal with 3:46 left before halftime, Roberson took the pitch from Moore, but could never a grip on the ball and fumbled at the goal line and Northeastern recovered.
After a couple of Northeastern first downs, Vikings five star defensive end Tyquan Lewis got around the Eagles offensive line and put a big hit on Liverman and forced the Eagles to a 10-yard loss after the sack. Two plays later they were forced to punt the ball away.
Tarboro took over from their own 29-yard. On the first play, Roberson rolled through the left side of the offensive line and found pay dirt 71 yards away and scored with 1:49 left before halftime. He converted the two-point conversion and Tarboro led 38-10.
Tarboro scored on their first possession coming out of halftime, when Roberson busted through the pile and went 70 yards for his third TD of the game. He converted the two-point conversion and gave Tarboro a 46-10 lead.
Tarboro continued the onslaught and scored once more after Marshall punched it in from 4 yards out to give the Vikings the 52-24 win.
After the win, Marshall said it feels good to be able to compete in the Eastern finals for the first time in his career. Marshall said the team has a lot of work ahead of them this week.
With the win, it gives Lewis his fourth chance to play in the Eastern finals.
Lewis said it means a lot for him and his Viking teammates to make it back to the finals. He said that every game is just a new challenge and they need to be ready to face it. He said he embraces all of it.
"We knew we had a job to do as a defense and we stepped up and completed it," Lewis said. "We put a game plan together and just wanted to get the job done."
Craddock talked about the teams overall performance after the game and said he was proud of his teams defense for not giving up the big plays and that they looked good 75 percent of the time.
"We gave up the five yard outs and we can give teams that but we couldn't allow the big plays," Craddock said. "We have so much to clean up but defensively we are who we are and we played well there."
The part of the game that Craddock thinks his team needs to clean up is the special teams. He said they put their defense in bad situations by giving up massive amounts of return yards.
"We have to work several phases of the game before we play again," Craddock said. "I thought at times our tackling was horrible and we need to work on staying on blocks. We have more then enough to work on this coming week before we play Friday night."
Tarboro will host South Columbus Friday night in the Eastern finals. This will be a rematch of last years Eastern finals when the Vikings pulled off a dramatic upset after trailing South Columbus late in the game. Tarboro defeated South Columbus 13-10.