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Tarboro advances to first state title game since 2012

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Tarboro's Ja'viyes Massenburg recovers a fumble Friday during the NCHSAA 1-AA East Regional final against Edenton Holmes at Tarboro High School.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, December 2, 2017

TARBORO — Tarboro High can finally stop thinking about last season.

The Vikings football team carried last year’s regional title game loss with them through the season by intentionally bringing up those painful memories each week. Tarboro is done looking back after Friday’s 50-7 win over visiting second-seeded Edenton Holmes in the NCHSAA 1-AA East Regional final.

Tarboro batted away the Aces as swiftly as Ja’viyes Massenburg swatted footballs in another dominant win that included the Vikings forcing their third running clock in as many playoff games. The win advances the Vikings to their first state title appearance since 2012, where they will face the West’s top seed in Mount Airy.

“This definitely feels good,” Tarboro linebacker Phillip Willoughby said. “We’re taking a huge step from last year. It feels like we got a monkey off our back. We’re ready for the next challenge.”

Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock showed a small crack in his message of making sure his players only worry about the next game. But Craddock knew this Tarboro team has a chance to be special, and trusted his players to stay focused.

That’s why during the Vikings’ bye week in the first round of the playoffs, the coaches spent time watching film on the Aces’ high-scoring triple-option offense. They knew a potential matchup loomed in the regional final and they wanted to be ready.

“The first-round bye week we watched film on them and Coach kept stressing over their triple option,” Massenburg said. “He kept telling us how to defend it. We came outside that week and played the option over and over. Even up until game time tonight he was stressing over it.”

All of that stress paid dividends. Edenton Holmes (12-2) couldn’t find much space to work as the Vikings’ defense had an answer for every option. Aces running back Keimon Bailey entered the game with 2,344 yards and 38 touchdowns, and Tarboro held him to 108 yards and no scores.

The Vikings (14-0) forced five fumbles and recovered all five, including a pair of Massenburg swats on pitch attempts. Massenburg, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound defensive end, burst into the backfield and swatted a pitch into the ground, scooped up the ball but tripped as he tried to run for a score.

Tarboro fumbled on the ensuing play, it’s lone mistake of the game, but Massenburg bailed out the offense just second later. This time, Massenburg didn’t trip. The sophomore again found himself in the backfield, swatted a pitch attempt into the grass, then ran 27 yards for a touchdown.

“Watching film I kept seeing him pitch the ball like a chess pass in basketball,” Massenburg said. “So during practice I had my teammates do that, and once I saw them do it in the game I pushed up and went for it.”

That defensive touchdown gave the Vikings a 21-0 lead with 6:57 left to play in the first half, and all the swagger it needed to close out the win.

Clifton Joyner Jr. ran for two touchdowns and a game-high 113 yards, while fellow running back Jaquez Edge added a score and 93 yards. Deontae Williams, who had just 26 yards at halftime, exploded for three second-half touchdowns and finished with 88 yards.

“On offense we were sort of feeling them out early,” Williams said. “We weren't sure how they were going to defend us, then it didn’t take long for us to do what we do. No let up, that’s all.”

Edenton Holmes’ lone score came with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter after driving 70 yards. But the Aces final two drives both ended in lost fumbles.

“The defense played so good today,” Williams said. “They turned it up for us.”

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