SW EDGE. (0-1) AT NO. EDGE. (1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: North Edgecombe hasn’t won this game since Raymond Cobb was roaming the Warriors’ sideline. Now his son is coaching the Cougars, who are looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Southern Nash last week. North Edgecombe was impressive in its 52-0 romp over Northwest Halifax, but then again they looked good last year against the Vikings before losing by 40 to the Cougars the very next week.
WHAT IT MEANS: This will be a statement game for both sides. A Warriors win would give North Edgecombe confidence and signal a long year for SouthWest. A victory by the Cougars would ease some of the concerns in Pinetops after last week’s loss.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: SouthWest Edgecombe’s offensive line. It’s easy to say the Cougars need to stop the run, but they also need to find a way to run the ball effectively. SouthWest struggled mightily to find an offensive rythym last week, and that will be more difficult without at least one starter on the offensive line. If the new-look offensive line doesn’t gel quickly, the lack of consistency might be the difference in the game.
SO. NASH (1-0) AT W. BEDD. (1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: The Firebirds looked impressive in dispatching SouthWest Edgecombe last week behind a strong, physical offensive line and a swarming defense. The level of competition rises for Southern Nash as it travels to Wilson to take on the Bruins. Last year’s contest between the schools was a tight one, and this season’s should be no different.
WHAT IT MEANS: This is Southern Nash’s second of three road games to start the season. If the Firebirds can secure another win away from home, it will only build confidence that this team could potentially challenge for a conference title.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Quarterback Zack Foster. The Firebirds’ offense looked its best when Foster didn’t have to make too many decisions, but if Southern Nash needs to throw the ball in a close game, can Foster complete that pass? The junior looked shaky on the rare occassions he was asked to throw last week, but it might become more of a necessity tonight.
EC N-EASTERN (1-0) AT NO. NASH (1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: The Knights showed the fight in the fourth-quarter that coach Randy Raper was hoping for in last week’s comeback victory against Wendell Corinth-Holders. Now the Knights gear up for a Northeastern squad that rolled through Southern Vance last week and pummelled Northern Nash last year. Northern Nash will need to show that it has improved from the first week, and more importantly, does not fall back into the same habits as last year.
WHAT IT MEANS: Northern Nash is hoping to open the season 2-0 for the first time in more than a decade. If the Knights can keep it close for all four quarters, it will be a major accomplishment after losing by more than 40 points to the Eagles last season.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: The first 15 minutes. Northern Nash’s furious rally was necessary to compensate for a poor beginning. The Knights fell behind, 14-0, in the first quarter and change last week and that type of start will not fly against a team of Northeastern’s caliber. If Northern Nash needs 15 minutes to adjust to the game then a fourth-quarter resurgence might be irrelevant.
KINSTON (1-0) AT N. CENTRAL (0-1)
PREGAME CHATTER: Nash Central is expected to continue to rotate Corey Pearce and D’Marko Brown at quarterback. Pearce had the better outing of the two against Tarboro, and the sophomore should be in line for his first career start against Kinston. Bulldogs coach Kevin Crudup believes that his team is just as talented as the opponent this week, but the Vikings beat Nash Central, 26-9, last season.
WHAT IT MEANS: This is the Bulldogs’ best chance to grab a win in the first half of the season. The losses are piling up with 14 in a row, but Crudup remains optimistic. A win here could do wonders for the locker room, but a loss will only make things worse.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Nash Central wide receiver Jonquail Jones. Jones accounted for 103 of the team’s 184 total yards of offense against Tarboro. The junior is the team’s lone weapon on offense, which means he will need to perform at a high level against Kinston.
HAL. ACAD. (0-0) AT RM ACAD. (0-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: The most successful team in the Twin Counties returns to the field tonight for its season opener. Rocky Mount Academy, the 2013 NCISAA state champions, opens its repeat bid with a conference matchup against rival Halifax. RMA likely won’t duplicate its 49-7 victory from last season. Halifax Academy is a veteran group – the Vikings have 15 seniors – and are expected to play a more physical style of play this year.
WHAT IT MEANS: In a league that is expected to have a number of solid teams, opening with a victory is of great importance.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Eagles junior Jacob Hunter. Hunter is healthy and has been practicing after sitting out with a hamstring injury. RMA’s playmaker has his first chance of the season to put up big numbers.
G. CENTRAL (0-1) AT RM PREP (1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: Rocky Mount Prep opened the 2014 season in the same manner it did a year ago by beating Gaston KIPP-Pride. The Jaguars’ 30-8 victory matched the program’s largest margin of victory in its three seasons. They’ll certainly be tested more tonight against a Granville Central team that lost, 39-30, to Oxford Webb in Week 1.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Jaguars were shut out, 56-0, at Granville Central a season ago. Wins and losses aside, coach Danny Ward’s team wants to put up more resistance tonight than it did in 2013.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Rocky Mount Prep running back Percy Harper. Harper scored by way of a rushing touchdown and an interception return a week ago. To have a player who can make such a difference on both sides of the ball is a luxury for the often undermanned Jaguars.
WASH. (0-1) AT TARBORO (1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: Tarboro is looking to open the season with back-to-back wins for just the second time in the past four years. The Vikings were sloppy against Nash Central, but managed to total 269 yards on the ground. Senior running back Deshan Farmer had three touchdowns while sophomore quarterback Dawson Harris showed he can manage the game in his first career start. Tarboro lost to Washington last season on the road.
WHAT IT MEANS: This will be a measuring stick for the Vikings. Nash Central didn’t provide much of a test in Week 1, but Washington will be one in Week 2. The Pam Pack made it to the 2-AA state semifinals last season and finished with a 12-3 record.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Tarboro fullback Markese Clapp. The senior injured his wrist in fall camp, but played through the pain against Nash Central with a wad of tape over his hand. He’s the lead blocker in the Tarboro T and has the ability to make it to the next level. He’ll need to be the workhorse of the offense again.
RM HIGH (1-0) AT OX. WEBB (1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: The Gryphons opened the season with its first shutout of an opponent since Week 2 of last season. While the defense was superb, so was the special teams. Rocky Mount returned a punt for a touchdown and also recovered an onside kick. Gryphons coach Jason Battle hopes that will continue against an Oxford Webb program they beat last season at home.
WHAT IT MEANS: In the big picture, this is just another out of conference game for the Gryphons. But in Battle’s eyes this an opportunity for his team to show that they can build off of last week’s win. Too many times in the past, there has been a letdown. Battle doesn’t want that against Oxford Webb.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Rocky Mount tackle C.J. Betha. Oxford Webb’s defensive line is anchored by Gearl Majors, who averaged four tackles a game last season.
Betha and the Gryphons will need to keep Majors in check and quarterback Joshua Carter on his feet after struggling to do so last week.
– Jessie H. Nunery, Andrew Ivins & Josh Walfish