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Storylines: Gryphons, Vikings head into football regionals

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Rocky Mount High's coach Jason Battle encourages his players as they return to the field during the game against Middle Creek on Friday evening at Rocky Mount High School. The Gryphons fell to the Mustangs 37-25.

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Telegram Sports Staff

Friday, December 9, 2016

3-A playoffs

No. 4 Rocky Mount High (12-2) at No. 3 Havelock (13-1)

Last week: The Gryphons cruised in the third round with a blowout 49-20 win over Southern Guilford. Havelock knocked off top-seeded West Craven 24-7, continuing a trend of allowing 14 points per game or fewer this postseason.

Tonight’s game: RMH will have to shut down the most prolific passing attack it will see this season if it is to advance it to the state championship game for the second straight season. The Gryphons will look to get their run game moving early on, and will rely on a stout defense to make some plays. The Rams, meanwhile, aim to continue their program’s rich history. Havelock has been to the playoffs every season since 2008, and won three consecutive state titles from 2011-13. Havelock could score in bunches through the air.

If they advance: The winner of this game will face one of two top-seeded teams in the championship game on Dec. 17 at Wake Forest University. No. 1 Hibriten or No. 1 South Point awaits. Hibriten is 14-0 and has had little trouble in its three playoff wins so far. South Point is 10-4, and lost its four games in a five-week span.

Telegram prediction: The Gryphons found the secret to unlocking their rushing potential, and have reaped the benifits by gaining at least 300 yards on the ground in each of the past four games. RMH will be tested here, but it will continue to run the ball and control the clock to keep the Rams’ dangerous offense off the field. Rocky Mount High 28, Havelock 24.

TARBORO (12-2) AT WALLACE-ROSE HILL (13-1)

Last week: The Tarboro defense continued to prove it's one of the toughest in the Class 1-AA playoffs on Friday, handling top-seeded East Carteret in a 13-7 victory. The Vikings shut out the Mariners in the second half. Tarboro's rushing attack was powered by Jaquez Edge, who ran for 106 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. Kicker Dawson Harris provided the other two scoring plays with field goals. Tarboro had been knocked out in the third round of the last three playoffs, and the seniors were excited to finally break through that threshold.

Tonight’s game: Tarboro travels to Wallace-Rose Hill, the two-time reigning 1-AA champions. The Bulldogs beat the Vikings in the third round of the 2013 playoffs. Wallace-Rose Hill has only lost one time this season, and it has held its first two playoffs opponents scoreless. Both Tarboro and Wallace-Rose Hill are averaging more than 280 yards rushing, and both defenses are allowing less than 10 points per game. Wallace-Rose Hill’s Desmond Newkirk has 14 touchdowns and needs only 12 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.

If they advance: The winner moves on to the  1-AA state title game, which will be played at 7:35 p.m. on Dec. 16 in Chapel Hill. Tarboro's last state title appearance was in 2012, when the Vikings lost to East Lincoln, 24-20. Tarboro won three consecutive championship from 2009 to 2011. If Wallace-Rose Hill advances, it will be the school's third consecutive appearance in the state title game.

Telegram Prediction: Tarboro has made no secret since the offseason that making the state championship game was one of it goals. It will prove to be a tough task tonight against a good team in one of the smaller stadiums one can imagine for a high school football game. We think the Vikings are up to the task. Tarboro 17, Wallace-Rose Hill 14

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