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Prep football notebook: Cougars' Cobb proud of strong season

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SouthWest Edgecombe’s Tayshaun Pittman reacts on the sidelines Friday at SouthWest Edgecombe in Pinetops.

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By PATRICK MASON AND SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writers

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Second-seeded SouthWest Edgecombe’s season came to an end with a 56-28 loss to visiting No. 3 North Davidson on Friday in the third round of the 2-AA playoffs.

The Cougars had trouble with the Black Knights defensive and offensive fronts, and struggled to contain a dominant passing game. But SWE turned in a spirited second half where it outscored ND, 28-21.

“They were really big up front,” Cougars coach Jonathan Cobb said of ND. “But we battled and I am so proud of our guys to win the second half.”

Cobb had nice things to say about his team following the loss, as he reflected on what was a fine season. He said that while this version of the Cougars weren’t as physical as other iterations, the skill position players were plentiful and led to an exciting season as SWE emerged from a run-first team to a more balanced, vertical offense.

The coach pointed to a strong senior class that helped make the transition smooth, and also praised the work ethic of a team that wasn’t shy about vocalizing its lofty goals and chasing them.

“This group of seniors was a special group,” Cobb said. “Guys like Jelan Smith, Darntrell Council, Jayden Lewis, Jordan Clayton, Tanner Wittig, they were outstanding leaders. They coached their peers and made sure we all gave our best efforts.”

The Cougars expect to be strong again next season with a number of talented players returning, including junior receiver Keishon Porter, who caught a trio of touchdowns in Friday’s loss. And while finding words after a season-ending loss can be difficult, Cobb summed up his thoughts neatly when looking at the 14-game season as a whole.

“Someday soon when this sting wears off we’ll be able to look back and be proud of what we accomplished this year,” Cobb said. “And I can tell you right now that I am so proud to be their coach.”

North Davidson-Ledford Senior rivalry

The Black Knights (12-2) advance to the Regional round against rival No. 1 Ledford Senior. The two team’s are quite familiar.

ND quarterback Landon Moore said that a number of the team’s players now play for Ledford after the opening of a new school in Davidson County before the 2017-18 school year. That school, Oak Grove, was filled with students from both schools. So the Black Knights tore up their playbook and began installing new plays — and a decidedly exciting offense — from the ground up.

“It took some time to get to how it looked out there tonight,” Moore said of the offense. Moore, at one point in the game, had completed 19 consecutive passes and held a firm grasp of the intricate passing concepts deployed by coach Brian Flynn.

“We cut out the whole playbook and started over,” Moore continued. “When we split, we had a bunch of guys who knew our plays go over there so it was like learning everything all over again.”

SWE field position

SouthWest Edgecombe had trouble moving the ball while working out of its own territory. The Cougars gained 16 yards and one first down in the first quarter, and trailed 21-0.

By halftime, the Cougars gained 36 yards, and made their way into the opponent’s territory — the 49 — just before halftime.

Part of the issue was that SWE did not begin a drive past its own 35-yard line in the first half, and the North Davidson kickers played a large role in the field-position battle. The Black Knights’ kicking game was exceptional and recorded touchbacks on each of its first three kicks, starting SWE on its own 20-yard line.

Throughout the game North Davidson had the Cougars pinned deep in their own territory, and the Black Knights even recovered an onside kick in the first quarter after scoring a touchdown on its opening possession.

That onside recovery set up a four-play, 48-yard scoring drive that ended in quarterback Landon Moore’s first of five touchdown passes.

North Davidson turnovers let SWE creep back

While the Black Knights held a 35-0 halftime lead, the margin slimmed soon after the break as an aggressive SWE defense recovered three fumbles on consecutive North Davidson drives.

The first came on the opening possession of the third quarter in which the Cougars forced a punt. The snap soared over the head of the punter and SWE recovered on the 2-yard line. Jareil Collins needed just one touch to punch in the Cougars’ first score.

On the next ND possession, SWE’s Zykei Callahan pounced on a fumble from running back Owen Turbyfill. The Cougars, starting on the ND 8-yard line, scored in one play when quarterback Jayden Lewis found Keison Porter in the corner of the end zone to cut the deficit to 35-14.

The Black Knights’ final turnover happened six plays later when SWE defensive tackle Tanazzi Williams scooped up another forced fumble. This time, however, the Cougars couldn’t take advantage and were forced to punt.

SWE defensive adjustments

The Cougars made a change to their secondary in the second half in an attempt to limit the ND offense that had scored five touchdowns on five drives in the first two quarters.

Michael Hussey moved from cornerback to safety, with Ty Gunter taking his place on the outside. Hussey, 5-foot-5, is accustomed to being thrown at due to his size, and Friday’s game was no different.

He was targeted on the Black Knights’ first pass play of the game, and broke up the play. He also made a few tackles in the run game, and had perfect position on a fade route that resulted in a touchdown as Hussey couldn’t knock the ball out.

Moving Gunter to corner nearly paid off in a big way when the senior jumped a route but couldn’t hang onto an interception with nothing but grass ahead of him.

Tarboro trick a matter of when

The most exciting play that came out of Tarboro’s 28-0 victory over North Stanly was a second-quarter touchdown pass by running back Keon Caudle.

After taking a pitch from quarterback Kimani McDaniels, rather than run the ball, Caudle, who was a quarterback until his sophomore year of high school, let the North Stanly safety bite, leaving Maquez Edge wide open for a 40-yard pass and catch.

That’s a play that’s been in the arsenal for a while; when to call it depends on the point in the game.

“What we do is we see where the safeties are. Their safety was very, very aggressive. We practiced it and it was perfect all week,” coach Jeff Craddock said. “I even told (offensive coordinator Ricky Babb), when you call that play, it’s going to be a touchdown. Keon carried out the fake. It was good execution. I knew it was going to be a touchdown.”

Craddock figured he’d see North Stanly

Though a 28-0 win for Tarboro doesn’t sound close, it was a physical game in which the Vikings were forced to work for every yard.

That didn’t much surprise Craddock, who heard rumblings before the season began that the Comets could make some noise in 1-AA.

“I heard they were supposed to be really good this year in the summer,” Craddock said. “It was a school that coaches had been talking about. A big senior class, some good talent. They got put in the east bracket. I said, yep, we’re going to be seeing them in the third round.”

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