Tarboro runs into East Regional final
By PATRICK MASON
Saturday, November 25, 2017
TARBORO —- The NCHSAA Class 1-AA state championship game will have two new teams this season.
Tarboro High made sure of that.
The top-seeded Vikings on Friday knocked out No. 5 West Montgomery, last season’s state runner-up, in the third round in commanding fashion. Tarboro shut down a potent offense, and had no trouble finding ways to score in a 48-3 trashing of the Warriors.
Wallace-Rose Hill, last season’s champion, won’t stand in the way either after it moved up to 2-A this year. Tarboro will host Edenton Holmes next week in the East Regional final with a state title berth on the line.
“They’re a really good, fast and physical team,” West Montgomery coach Danny Akins said of the Vikings. “It starts up front, and they were on us. We couldn’t get our guards out to pull, and when we did get into space they swarmed us.”
Top-seeded Tarboro (13-0) held serve at home by shutting down a pair of Warriors running backs that entered the game with video game-like numbers.
Damon Rhone Jr. and Jataviun Leake had combined for 3,526 yards and 49 touchdowns over their first 13 games. The Vikings were up to the task and held the pair to a combined 52 yards on 20 carries.
“Our coaches really did a good job with the film sessions this week,” Tarboro defensive back Kendarius Jenkins said. “We knew who we had to stop and our coaches showed us how to do it. There were some formations, like in the shotgun, where we knew what side they were going to run to.”
Both teams punted on their opening drives, but that was the only break the Warriors got the rest of the way.
The Vikings defense went on to force a pair of turnovers on consecutive drives that Tarboro turned into points. Jacoby Ward recovered a fumble with the Warriors driving into Tarboro territory, setting up an 18-yard touchdown run by Jaquez Edge four plays later.
West Montgomery (11-3) again drove into Tarboro territory, only to give the ball back when Vikings defensive back Devonta Davis intercepted quarterback Makel Horne at the 2-yard line. What came next was typical Tarboro football. Edge took the ensuing handoff 98 yards for a score.
“That hole my line created, I don’t even know what to say about that,” said Edge, who had a team-high 171 rushing yards. “It was huge.”
Added Davis: “I was watching him go down the sideline and I couldn’t help but think I set that up. You don’t think touchdown right away when your guy’s have a whole field to go, but that’s who we are this year.”
Tarboro went into halftime with a 29-3 lead, then scored touchdowns on three of its four second-half drives. Edge and Deontae Williams each scored two touchdowns, with Clifton Joyner Jr., Malik Dickens and Winston Johnson adding one apiece.
The Vikings gained 421 yards of offense, all of which came on the ground. They only bothered to pass one, and that came on a throw-away from scrambling quarterback Tae Randolph.
West Montgomery was held to 83 yards.
“We played a good team tonight and we defended the pass and run well,” Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. “We’re playing our best ball right now. This group is really gelling at a good time.”
The Vikings are on an impressive stretch as a program, having played in the third round of the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. Their most recent state title came in 2011.
The Vikings have won each game this season by at least 28 points, and have outscored opponents 684-52. Even with the lopsided wins, the squad has no trouble preparing and playing with an unmatched intensity.
“There’s no let down with this team,” Davis said. “Last year’s loss in the playoffs is on our minds every day when we come in here. We’re motivated by a title. That’s why we never let our foot off the gas.”