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Tarboro wins field position, game, advances to third round

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Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock instructs the team Friday during the second round NCHSAA 1-AA state playoffs game against Williamston Riverside at Tarboro High School.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, November 18, 2017

It can be hard to find anything wrong with the machine that is Tarboro football, though coach Jeff Craddock found a way.

Craddock had a short list of concerns about his team before the season began, and atop that list was the Vikings’ special teams play. The longtime coach wondered how that unit would respond after losing several key players to graduation. Fast forward to mid-November and now it’s the opposing teams who are concerned about the Vikings special teams.

Tarboro earned a 56-7 win over visiting Williamston Riverside in the second round of the NCHSAA 1-AA playoffs and did so with the help of prime field position.

“Our special teams guys played outstanding,” Craddock said. “We had some concerns at the beginning of the season, but the guys stepped up and are playing well.”

The Vikings (12-0) scored touchdowns on seven of their nine offensive possessions and never had a drive last more than six plays. Of those nine drives, six began in Riverside territory. The other three had the Vikings starting no worse than their own 30.

Huge kick returns by Devonta Davis and Deontae Williams made for an easy outing for the offense. By the end of the first quarter, Tarboro led 21-0, then pushed that lead to 42-7 by halftime.

The Knights, meanwhile, never began a drive beyond their own 28. That put Riverside in tough situations against a nasty defense.

The Vikings defense played its usual brand of shutdown football by forcing five turnovers. Tarboro picked off Riverside quarterback Brandon Beach three times, including Damion Massenburg’s interception return for a touchdown early in the first quarter. The Vikings also forced three fumbles and recovered two. Each led to touchdowns one play later.

Running back Jaquez Edge scored a pair of rushing touchdowns, while Williams and Clifton Joyner Jr. each added a pair of rushing scores.

“The guys set us up so well with field position,” Edge said. “And we have so many guys who can run, we’re hard to stop.”

Joyner had a game-high 102 rushing yards, while Williams added 81. Tarboro added a passing touchdown as quarterback Tae Randolph found a wide open Jospeh Lyons for a 20-yard score, as Riverside sold out on the run.

Riverside (7-6) did score a long touchdown on a screen pass that went for 76 yards with 3:49 remaining in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 36-7, but couldn’t muster anything else.

“Every day in practice we’re competing hard against each other,” Edge said. “We have to practice like that because we’re not being challenged in games, so we have to manufacture our own intensity. It’s tough sometimes, but we know those games are coming.”

Tarboro now has two wins over Riverside in its past three games. The Vikings haven’t been tested through 12 games this season, winning by no fewer than 28 points in each win. Craddock, however, expects his team to face tougher competition moving forward. Such a game could be on tap soon.

The Vikings will host No. 5 West Montgomery next week in the third round. The Warriors beat fourth-seeded Granville Central, 45-0, and have outscored opponents 93-0 through the first two rounds.

I think we’re done with games like this,” Craddock said. “It’s going to be much more challenging from here on out.”

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