Nash Central (0-6) at R.M. High (5-1)
PREGAME CHATTER: The two teams in this rivalry are on opposite end of the spectrum in the Big East. It’s the conference season opener for both teams, which really means that the slates are wiped clean. However, Nash Central has had a lot more to wipe away. The Bulldogs have been tested in the nonconference season and came away without a win. The Gryphons found a few tests and managed to pull out a pair of one-score victories after losing to Greenville Rose.
WHAT IT MEANS: This game holds the chance for Nash Central to forget about its nonconference schedule. A victory tonight puts them in a tie for first place in the conference. The Gryphons want that place at the end of the year, and winning tonight would be key to reaching the top.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Gryphons’ quarterback J.T. Smith threw more than 20 passes last week and gives the Gryphons a balanced attack. If the run game is stopped by Nash Central defensive tackle Chris Alston – another key player tonight – then Smith has the ability to beat the Bulldogs with his arm.
Wilson Hunt (3-3) at Northern Nash (3-3)
PREGAME CHATTER: The easy narrative for this game will be Randy Raper facing his old team, but in reality, it could be two programs headed in opposite directions. Hunt hasn’t lost a Big East game in nearly three calendar years while Northern Nash is 1-9 in the league in the past two seasons. But this is a new year in which the Warriors have looked vulnerable and the Knights have improved drastically. Will the status quo officially be shaken up tonight?
WHAT IT MEANS: Even the Knights’ third-round playoffs team in 2010 didn’t beat Hunt. Northern Nash has yet to beat Hunt since the Warriors joined the Big East.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Turnovers. The Knights have crafted an identity for themselves with defense and smart, controlled offense. What they can’t do is give away easy points and put undue pressure on its offense.
So. Nash (6-0) at Wilson Fike (6-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: Could the Big East champion be decided tonight in the conference opener? This game could be a key tiebreaker down the road. A beat-up Southern Nash team will look to keep its magic going against a Fike squad that has been consistently good this season.
WHAT IT MEANS: Staying perfect isn’t as important as 1-0 in the Big East for either side. With Wilson Hunt off its perch as the clear best team in the league, it’s open season in the conference. These two sides stand realistic shots of winning the league, but a loss tonight will make doing so much more difficult.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Fike’s defensive line. Southern Nash’s victory against Tarboro last week was classic Firebirds football, with a punishing offensive line exerting its will and beating a worn-down Tarboro front on the final drive. Fike has to neutralize the Firebirds’ line – or keep them off the field – if it hopes to win.
R-So. Creek (1-5) at Tarboro (4-2)
PREGAME CHATTER: The message was simple and sent via Tarboro’s twitter account. Despite losing by a point to unbeaten Southern Nash last week and dropping their first home game since 2007, the Vikings have three attainable goals: 1. Winning the County. 2. Winning the Conference. 3. Winning the state championship. Tarboro faces an undermanned South Creek squad that will play the Vikings for the first time as members of the Two Rivers Conference.
WHAT IT MEANS: Step 1 to achieving Goals 2 and 3 begins tonight.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Vikings running back Deshan Farmer. Farmer has not played because of an injured shoulder since a Week 3 loss to Washington. His return will greatly aid Radja Bobbitt and the team’s backfield.
R.M. Prep (1-5) at No. Edge. (3-2)
PREGAME CHATTER:The first of many meetings between the schools is tonight in Leggett. North Edgecombe welcomes Rocky Mount Prep, which will play in its first game as a member of any conference. The Two Rivers opener seemingly would side with the Warriors, who have won two consecutive games. The Jaguars will be underdogs for each of their conference games until they prove to be spoilers.
WHAT IT MEANS: A conference opener sets the tone for the remainder of the month. If North Edgecombe takes care of business, they should pull away rather easily.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Rocky Mount Prep’s defensive line. North Edgecombe’s past two opponents have allowed Antwoine Pittman to run for more than 200 yards. Will the Jaguars be different?
S.W. Edge. (3-3) at No. Pitt (5-1)
PREGAME CHATTER:SouthWest Edgecombe’s strength will be needed tonight. In order to slow down an efficient and fluid North Pitt offense, the Cougars will have to control the football on the ground. North Pitt has won five straight, and it has scored no fewer than 33 points in those contests. SouthWest Edgecombe had an easy time with East Carteret last week in a 49-7 victory.
WHAT IT MEANS: Cougars coach Jonathan Cobb said his team needs to open conference play with victories. Whether or not SouthWest Edgecombe rises to the top of the Eastern Plains Conference will depend largely on what it does tonight.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: North Pitt quarterback Davion Council. Council threw for a pair of touchdown passes last week, and he also has the ability to make plays on the run.
K.P. Acad. (5-1) at R.M. Acad. (5-1)
PREGAME CHATTER: Here is when the Eagles will be tested. Rocky Mount Academy’s final three opponents each defeated the Eagles last year, and this year, coach B.W. Holt knew this would be the toughest stretch. Kinston Parrott has won back-to-back games since losing to Southampton Academy – a championship favorite and the Eagles’ next opponent. One of those wins was a 40-6 victory against Lasker Northeast, which the Eagles defeated, 56-6.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Eagles have been on the road twice and return home for a test that could set the stage for the playoffs this year. Both teams are in but seeding, and maybe a home game, could be determined this week.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Wing back Linwood Jones might be the fastest player on the field tonight. If the Eagles want to be in position to win, they’ll have to make holes for him and he’ll have to hit them hard.
– Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz