Tarboro hopes its biggest challenge is yet to come


Tarboro's Devonta Davis, left, looks for room to run Friday during the game against SouthWest Edgecombe at SouthWest Edgecombe High School.


Sports Writer

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

TARBORO —- Tarboro football has a problem.

It has nothing to do with points, wins, focus or chemistry. The Vikings finished the season 11-0, earned a first round bye in the 1-AA playoffs and averaged more than 52 points per game. There’s no defensive problem either; opponents scored less than four points per game.

They have a running back problem.

They have too many good ones.

“We’ve got, in my opinion, seven to eight guys that you have to stop. A lot of our guys would be starters on other teams,” Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. “It’s hard as a coach, you want to give everyone carries, but when the clock’s running in most of your games, you don’t have the ball a whole lot. It’s hard to do.”

Added senior running back Deontae Williams: “Frustrating, a little bit. We keep blowing teams out. It’s a good problem.”

Sure, it isn’t the conventional depth, defense or chemistry issue, and it could easily be spun as an overwhelming advantage, considering the Vikings have four players with over 500 yards on the ground. But such is life for a team that won every game this year by an average of almost 49 points.

“The guys are starting to understand that, that’s just the way it is,” Craddock said. “That’s part of being a winning program.”

Overall, Tarboro racked up 4,536 yards of offensive; 3,980 of those came on the ground, with six different backs getting between 20 and 70 carries. The Vikings will display that multi-headed running attack Friday, when they host conference opponent Riverside in the second round of 1-AA playoffs, a team they beat in October by a 62-0 tally.

Up to this point, Tarboro has done everything in its power to avenge a loss in the east bracket’s championship game last year.

With a team as deep as any in the last several years, said Craddock, there’s no doubt the Vikings are a very good football team. As for all of those lopsided scores, some sub-par opponents might have played a part.

And while the opponent for Tarboro on Friday has already been taken care of once this season, the deeper rounds of playoffs — should they get there —- figure to bring a new and exciting challenge that’s been missing in the first 11 games.

“We’ve played some OK teams but some of the teams we’ve played haven’t been that great either. That’s how you get some lopsided scores,” Craddock said. “That’s what the playoffs are all about. We know we’re good. We’re excited to see how good we really are. Are we a good team? Are we a great team? Are we the best team in 1-AA football?”

Whether it’s in first round, second round, or the state championship, the Vikings aren’t sure which team will be the one to do it, but they want a run for their money.

“It is fun, we like blowing people out,” quarterback Tae Randolph said, “but then again, we’re ready to play that one team that can compete with us, give us a good game.”

The bye week this past week, because of a schedule quirk, was the team’s second in three weeks. Craddock and his team used the lull to get healthy and review the usual strategies. Some possible rust aside, the coach said the break came at a good time.

One thing they won’t have to worry about, said linebacker Phillip Willoughby, is a deviation from the biggest goal.

“We’re ready. I want to see how we respond to a little adversity in the playoffs,” he said. “That’s one thing that coach preaches to us. We can’t control the event but we can control the response. We’ll be ready for whatever.”