Here’s what the NCHSAA’s playoffs pod system means for Tarboro.
It gives the Vikings an opening-round home game against Wilson Beddingfied.
Beddingfield is an Eastern Plains Conference foe.
Beddingfield lost to Tarboro, 28-0, on Friday.
“I don’t like it,” said Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock, whose team completed its second undefeated regular-season in the past three seasons. “The playoffs are supposed to be about playing different teams in different conferences. Now, you are starting to have the playoffs become conference tournaments.”
Tarboro (10-0), the three-time defending 2-A state champions, are the No. 1 seed in the East Region. The Vikings, who have homefield advantage until the state championship, could play EPC rival Kinston in the second round.
Edenton Holmes (10-0) and Elizabeth City Northeastern loom as possible third-round opponents
“We’re thankful it’s the playoffs, which will speak for itself,” Craddock said. “The opponent becomes irrelevant. It’s about us trying to get better and learning from the mistakes we made.”
When the Firebirds begin their journey in the 3-AA playoffs Friday, it will feel more like the regular season.
The pod system sent Southern Nash, the Big East Conference’s No. 2 seed, to Wilson Hunt, which is the undefeated league champion.
The Warriors won the first meeting in Bailey, 30-21.
“It’s just embarrassing,” Southern Nash coach Brian Foster said. “I know we both made it, but there’s no reason they couldn’t have made us play somebody else in the first round.
“I mean, we both have a chance to make a run, and now one of us is going to be out in the first round. I just don’t understand it.”
The biggest issue for the Firebirds (8-2) will be finding a way to play as many of their starters as possible. Linemen Cameron Gardner and Roderick Dunston have missed nearly all of the past three games, while all four starting defensive linemen are hurt.
Southern Nash could also be without Chi-Ali Bunn, its best receiver, who was ejected Friday against Nash Central. Foster said the Firebirds are appealing the two-game suspension that comes with an ejection.
Foster was unsure Saturday if the squad will hit at all in practice during the week.
“You hate not to, but I’m definitely not losing the game during the week,” he said. “It’s tough call, but we’ll have 11 on Friday.”
North Edgecombe defeated Weldon, 14-8, two weeks ago.
The Warriors also finished ahead of the Chargers in the Tar-Roanoke Conference standings.
And when the 1-A playoffs begin Friday, North Edgecombe will play host to Weldon.
North Edgecombe coach Keith Parisher said he didn’t understand the logic that initially had the Warriors on the road at Weldon. A late change Saturday switched the seeding, and the Warriors will play at home.
Parisher wasn’t complaining, either way.
“We didn’t think we were going to Weldon,” Parisher said before the switch. “From everything projected, they had us going all over the state – Lejuene, Union. I wasn’t expecting to play them.”
North Edgecombe (4-5) will play after having last week off with a bye. The Warriors spent the week correcting defensive mistakes and healing their bodies.
The team could be without starting running back Darius Phillips and offensive tackle Tre’quain Harris. Parisher said he will have a better idea mid-week about the duo’s status.
In a mostly empty stadium following Friday night’s season-ending loss to Southern Nash, Nash Central’s seniors gathered at midfield for one last meeting as Bulldogs football players.
The bulk of the team that helped Nash Central to the second round of the 3-AA playoffs in 2011 will move on.
“We’re going to lose a lot – about 20 seniors,” Nash Central coach Kevin Crudup said. “We’re going to have to play a lot of sophomores next season, so we have a lot to do in the offseason to get them ready for Friday nights.”
Even though the Bulldogs (3-7) are losing quite a bit of talent, about half of their starters are projected to return, including both options at quarterback as well as two of their top defensive playmakers.
“We have some good pieces back, though,” Crudup said. “Even though we’re losing a lot, we do have some talent coming back, so it’s not going to be doom and gloom or anything.”
Rocky Mount High
The Gryphons have struggled to play four full quarters all season, but against rival Northern Nash, Rocky Mount High had too many distractions.
First-year coach Jason Battle said that the school’s senior night might have been one of the distractions that caused his players, even in a 25-9 victory, to compete well below his expected level of them.
“That wasn’t the same Rocky Mount team I’d seen for nine weeks,” Battle said.
But with the first round of the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs looming this week and a home matchup with No. 7 Jacksonville (7-3) waiting Friday, Battle isn’t necessarily upset about his team’s overall performance.
“This could really be a good thing,” he said. “You get to a point where you’re complacent, and you kind of get that scare. That may be something good for us.”
Coach Raymond Cobb and the Cougars will travel to East Duplin on Friday for the first round of the 2-AA state playoffs.
SouthWest Edgecombe (5-5) finished the regular season third in the Eastern Plains Conference. The Cougars are the No. 6 seed and will play the third-seeded Vikings (9-1).
Two years ago, Northern Nash won the Big East Conference championship.
The Knights just finished their second consecutive season near the bottom of the conference. Northern Nash (2-8, 0-5) has won just one conference game since winning the championship.
Still, Northern Nash coach Mickey Crouch, who expressed interest in returning for next season, has some positives on which to build after Friday night’s 25-9 loss to rival Rocky Mount High.
“I thought we played hard,” he said. “I thought we played the best defense we’ve played. When you’re missing people and then the people you have out there get hurt. We don’t have a big squad.”
Rocky Mount Academy
With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Rocky Mount Academy led Raleigh Word of God, 7-6, before eventually falling, 38-7, to the two-time defending state champion.
But with that small early lead, Rocky Mount Academy was able to say that it led every team it played this season, at least for a short time.
It’s a far cry from last year’s winless season and gives first-year coach B.W. Holt something to hope for in the near future.
“We are going to try our best to take advantage of the situation,” Holt said. “I’m very much looking forward to it. We just have to get in the weight room and go to work.”
Rocky Mount Academy, which lost to Word of God, 51-0, five weeks ago, graduates just one starter and will add players from its undefeated junior varsity team next year.
On Friday night, Word of God scored four times on fourth down as the Eagles showed that they are very much improved.