Edenton Holmes just the latest Tarboro victim

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Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock pumps his fist after the Vikings' scored a two-point converstion Friday during the NCHSAA 1-AA East Regional final against Edenton Holmes at Tarboro High School.


Sports Writer

Friday, December 1, 2017

TARBORO —- It’s a list that has been updated weekly over the course of the last nearly four months, with Plymouth High School the first victim all the way back in August and Edenton Holmes the latest on Friday night.

This time, it was a 50-7 victory to send the Tarboro Vikings to the NCHSAA 1-AA state title game, its 14th victory in 14 tries.

But this season, where Tarboro has bruised and ground down opponents for 783 points compared to only 66 allowed, the Vikings haven’t just beaten every opponent in their way, they’ve taken away their spirit.

The proof was there on Friday. It happened somewhere between the fifth Tarboro touchdown of the night and the ensuing point after attempt.

Up 34-0 with a kick after try coming up, quarterback and holder Tae Randolph botched a snap that went awry, but rather than give in and throw the ball a mile into the stands, the senior scrambled for what seemed like forever, zagging his way through and around defenders before finding a double-covered Kendarius Jenkins for a makeshift two-point conversion nonetheless.

The Vikings were scoring almost on accident while the Aces were still scoreless, placing the final straw on top of a team and a well-traveled crowd that finally seemed to realize trying to beat Tarboro would be a fool’s errand.

On the sideline, one bewildered Edenton Holmes teammate asked another:

“Is this team really that good, or what?”

The other, which was on the field moments earlier when Randolph turned nothing into two points, nodded his head yes.

The Aces came in with an impressive season of their own, a 12-1 record and an average of more than 50 points scored per game.

Against the Vikings, there were no answers.

“I told the kids, you’re never going to play perfect, but we’re going to have to play pretty close to that. We didn’t,” Holmes coach Paul Hoggard said. “Hats off to them -- a great football team.”

The Vikings forced five turnovers -- all fumbles -- two of which came courtesy of Ja’viyes Massenberg, all of which, said coach Jeff Craddock, were a product of film crunching over the last few weeks.

Massenberg’s first forced fumble came with Tarboro up 14-0. The sophomore jumped a pitch lane, got his hands on the ball, and, to his own dismay, tripped and fell before he could reach the end zone about 20 yards away.

On the very next snap, Tarboro had a fumble of its own, giving the ball right back to the Aces. Three plays later, Massenberg did the exact same thing, forcing a fumble in the backfield. This time, he didn’t slip, returning the fumble for a 21-0 lead.

If it seemed like he knew what was coming, that’s because maybe he did.

“When I saw that play come up the first five times they did it, I kept trying to swipe, then I finally got it,” he said. “When I saw it, I just went for it. We’ve been working on the option plays they were running all week, that was practice Monday through Thursday.”

The end goal is still out there floating for Tarboro, with a matchup next week in the 1-AA title game against undefeated Mount Airy between them and the mountain top, but, said Craddock, this team has the type of qualities that other great Vikings team of the past have had.

In a year without much pushback, where the average margin of victory has hovered above 50, the feeling from the last two seasons, both of which came up short of a state title berth, have loomed large.

“There’s no pinpoint except that this team is purpose-driven,” Craddock said. “It’s the players. They study the film, they have great practices, they’re laser-focused on the goal. Sometimes you’ve got to learn some rough lessons in life, this group has learned them. When you get bumped a couple of times, you don’t want to feel that way again. They sure didn’t want to do that home.”