Tarboro outlasts SouthWest Edgecombe in defensive battle

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Tarboro’s Kimani Mcdaniels, center, is tackled by SouthWest Edgecombe Friday at SouthWest Edgecombe in Pinetops.


Sports Writer

Friday, September 20, 2019

PINETOPS — An emotional Cortezz Jones found himself in the center of the SouthWest Edgecombe huddle following the Cougars’ 24-7 loss to Tarboro on Friday in the Function at the Junction.

Jones wanted to speak to his teammates following the loss, and the senior running back delivered a heart-felt speech that contained a promise that he would keep playing hard this season.

One non-conference loss doesn’t define a season, though watching the Vikings celebrate on SWE’s home field stung. Especially with how close the game was.

“People will see the score and say, ‘Oh man,’ but it was a lot closer than that final,” Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. “Sometimes you play a really good team and that's a really good team. You’re not always going to be moving the ball at will.”

SWE (3-1) scored first and took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter when Jones plowed across the goal line from two yards out. Tarboro answered with a 75-yard, 12-play touchdown drive that ended with a Travis Johnson touchdown.

The Vikings (5-0) missed the extra point and trailed 7-6. It wasn’t until 2:08 remained in the first half when Tarboro grabbed a 12-7 lead on a 43-yard touchdown run from quarterback Kimani McDaniels.

On the following drive, the Tarboro defense stopped the SWE offense on four consecutive plays inside the 10 to take the slim lead into halftime.

“That goal line stand to end the first half, that was huge,” Craddock said. “You’re talking about us up 12-7, and had they scored we would have been down at least 13-12. I thought that gave us a boost and hurt them a little, but that was huge and we settled in. I can’t credit our defense enough.”

Tarboroo held SWE to 227 yards of offense, but the Cougars had plenty of chances to steal the win. SWE failed to convert at the end of the first half and in the third quarter lost a fumble inside the Vikings’ 10-yard line.

SWE never found the end zone again after the second quarter score.

“We left a lot out here,” Cougars coach Jonathan Cobb said. “I love this group of kids. They give you everything they got. You can’t ask for more. They wanted this one bad, and they know that there was a point in that game where it was ours for the taking.”

Tarboro has now won 35 consecutive games dating back to 2017, and Friday’s win was the fourth in a row over the Cougars.

Three things

1. Tarboro’s Kimani McDaniels rushed for 79 yards and added a rushing touchdown. McDaniels, a two-way player who while playing safety was tasked with shutting down SWE receiver Keishon Porter, picked off SWE quarterback Ray Wooten in the game’s final minute and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown.

It was the topping to a strong defensive effort from the senior, who also batted down a pass in the end zone to keep the Cougars from taking a lead heading into halftime.

2. SWE coach Jonathan Cobb said he was a little nervous about how his defense would play against a high-scoring and physical Tarboro offense. He couldn’t have been happier with that unit’s play, which forced Tarboro to punt five times in the second half, including four in a row during a stretch that lasted into the fourth quarter.

“The defensive scheme we had coming into the week, it really seemed to work,” Cougars defensive end Matt Joyner said. “We just really got after it defensively and the linebackers and defensive line really stepped up. Playing against Tarboro is tough. They’ve ran that formation on offense for years and years and years and it’s always worked, but I think we did good as a team tonight.”

3. The Vikings have a bye week coming up before they start Coastal Plains Conference play on Oct. 4 against South Creek. SWE, meanwhile, plays at Northern Nash next week.

He said it

“We have a lot to play for this year. We have a good ball club. I thought they played great tonight. Our defense put us in position to win and our offense couldn’t finish. We just couldn't get those couple big plays.” — Cougars coach Jonathan Cobb.

Scoring plays

Second quarter

SWE — Cortezz Jones 2 run (Hunter Hopkins kick), 10:45

T — Travis Johnson 3 run (kick failed), 6:09

T — Kimani McDaniels 43 run (run failed), 2:08

Fourth quarter

T — Cameron Powell 1 run (run failed), 7:32

T — McDaniels 85 interception return (run failed), 42.5