Gryphons, Bulldogs give each other tests prior to conference play

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Nash Central's Byron Hawkins stiff-arms a Northern Nash defender during a run Friday at Nash Central High School.


Sports Staff

Friday, September 22, 2017

Nash Central (4-1) at Rocky Mount High (1-3)

The matchup: The Bulldogs close out what has been a successful non-conference portion of its schedule by visiting a familiar opponent. These two programs have been conference rivals in the past, but Nash Central’s move to the 2-A ranks ends those league battles. Thankfully, the programs will continue to play one another. Right now, the momentum is on Nash Central’s side, with its only loss coming to Southern Nash. The Gryphons want to close out what has been a tough non-conference schedule with a victory.

Past 5 meetings: Rocky Mount High, 5-0.

Sideline report: Jason Battle knows his Gryphons need to figure out things quickly. A 41-6 loss last week at Havelock was full of turnovers, poor defense and special teams mistakes. Emotionally, the Gryphons did not meet the challenge of playing a team it knocked off in dramatic fashion to reach the 3-A state title game. On the other side, Nash Central put up 40 points and cruised past Goldsboro, 40-14. A win over the Gryphons would put the Bulldogs’ new foes in the Eastern Plains Conference on alert when league play begins in two weeks.

Telegram prediction: Nash Central 35, Rocky Mount High 28

Jacksonville White Oak (1-4) at Southern Nash (4-1)

The matchup: Southern Nash is coming off its first loss of the season, and it was a rare game where the Firebirds were not favored. The 35-0 loss to defending 4-AA champion Wake Forest gave Southern Nash an opportunity to extend itself against the best competition the state can offer. The Firebirds are ranked eighth in the latest N.C. AP Prep Football poll. Jacksonville White Oak is off to a rough start, but the Vikings did earn a victory last week against Croatan to stop a nine-game losing streak that stretched back into last season.

Past 5 meetings: N/​A

Sideline report: The Firebirds will not have to face the caliber of athletes they saw on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball last week, and they should be favored in all areas of the game.

Telegram prediction: Southern Nash 42, Jacksonville 35

Gaston KIPP (0-5) at N. Edgecombe (0-4)

The matchup: North Edgecombe hasn’t been impressive to this point of the season. The Warriors are winless in part because of the schedule they’ve played (including SW Edgecombe, Tarboro), but they also have yet to find any consistency on either side of the ball. Gaston KIPP hasn’t come close to beating anyone. One team’s fortunes will change --- at least for an evening --- tonight.

Past 5 meetings: North Edgecombe, 5-0.

Sideline report: North Edgecombe lost a pair of fumbles in last week’s lost to Robersonville South Creek. If the Warriors can take better care of the ball tonight, a victory is possible against a KIPP squad that is allowing 42 points per game.

Telegram prediction: North Edgecombe 40, Gaston KIPP 12

Rocky Mount Academy (4-0) at Southampton Academy (3-1)

The matchup: The Eagles are coming off a 54-0 win over Raleigh Grace Christian. The RMA offense has been effective this season with quarterback Isaiah Thomas leading the way. Southampton, meanwhile, suffered its first loss of the season last week against an upstart Faith Christian team that hasn’t lost a game.

Past 5 seasons: Southampton, 5-2.

Coach’s corner: Thomas had a huge game last week, and has proved that he is tough to plan for. The RMA junior threw four touchdown passes and ran for another, and also added four interceptions on defense.

And while the Eagles haven’t been tested much early on, coach Terrell Hudgins knows that will come to an end soon.

“I haven’t been completely satisfied with everything,” Hudgins said. “There’s still some things we need to work on. We’re going to play some tighter games once we get into conference play, with Southampton up this week.

“Luckily we’ve been able to get our starters out in the third quarter. We can prevent some injuries for our starters, and allow some of the second string players to get some quality time that way. But come conference play, those starters are likely going to have to play four quarters in more stressful situations.”

Telegram prediction: RMA, 42-12.

Tarboro (5-0) at

Chocowinity Southside (4-1)

The matchup: The Vikings posted their second shutout of the season last week in a cross-town rivalry game against SouthWest Edgecombe. The defense is the toughest part of this Tarboro team, and will look to shut down a Southside offense that has had no problem scoring points.

This is also a chance for Tarboro to get a feel for its new conference.

Past 5 meetings: N/​A.

Sideline report: Southside has scored 26, 48, 61 and 40 points in wins this season. Southside was held to six points in a loss last week, and has another tough test against the Vikings. Tarboro is hard to defend with its ability to use a group of rushers.

Telegram prediction: Tarboro, 35-6.

SW Edgecombe (3-1) at Northern Nash (0-5)

The matchup: SouthWest Edgecombe is coming off its first loss of the season to Tarboro. The Cougars power running game will look to control the ball to keep Northern Nash’s spread offense off the field. The Knights haven’t won a game, but have enough playmakers on offense to keep things interesting.

Past 5 meetings: N/​A.

Sideline report: The Cougars rely on their ground game and defense. The Knights will take deep shots on offense, and will have the opportunity to stack the box against a Cougars team that isn’t much of a passing threat.

Telegram prediction: SouthWest Edgecombe, 28-21.

Northampton Co. (4-1) at RM Prep (2-3)

The matchup: Northampton County brings a solid record into tonight’s meeting with Rocky Mount Prep. The visitors have dominated the series against the Jaguars and are a season removed from a third-round showing in the 1-A state playoffs.

Past 5 meetings: Northampton Co. 5-0

Sideline report: Rocky Mount Prep’s competition has been solid the past two weeks, and the Jaguars have been outscored 115-0 in those contests. They should get a little breathing room tonight, but they remain heavy underdogs.

Telegram prediction: Northampton Co. 48, RM Prep 21