The Northern Nash Knights fell in overtime, 32-26, to Wendell Corinth-Holders on Friday, but the coaching staff is looking at the contest as a positive for two reasons: They felt they learned something, and all of their mistakes can be fixed.
“It was a great learning experience and a great opportunity, we just didn’t capitalize,” Northern Nash coach Randy Raper said. “We’re changing attitudes, but we don’t know how to win yet.”
Raper said Northern Nash had its chances in both regulation and overtime to earn a victory, but it was little matters of execution that ultimately cost the team.
When it became close, Raper said the Knights “played not to lose instead of playing to win,” but he stressed that the over-arching measure of the Knights’ season will not be its won-lost record.
“We played hard, and I was proud of the way our guys fought,” he said. “The thing is, the players and the fans can’t judge based upon wins and losses. We’re working on improvement and it’s going to take time.”
In Week 2, the Knights travel to Elizabeth City Northeastern, another 2-A team with the capability to make a deep playoffs run. Raper said the Knights have another challenge, but the squad already is excited to go back to work.
“It doesn’t get any easier from here,” Raper said. “... You’d like to win them all, but we’re focusing on being better next week. I’m ready to get back to practice, and I know our players are, too.”
A balanced attack and a strong defense is exactly what coach Keith Parisher could have hoped for out of the Warriors in Week 1.
Seven different players scored for North Edgecombe (1-0) in a rather convincing Week 1 victory.
“That’s what we needed,” Parisher said. “That’s what we were going to have to work on.”
Sophomore running back Antoine Pittman scored twice and finished off a pair of extra points, but all came behind an offensive line that Parisher said played well. Moving forward, with a rivalry game against SouthWest Edgecombe looming next week, North Edgecombe will hope for even more improvement out of its defense, which grew in strides from the Tarboro Jamboree a week early.
But moving forward with a win should make things easier.
“It will definitely help us,” Parisher said. “I think it’s the first year in a couple years that we started with a win.”
After a season in which it relied on two-point conversions, Tarboro is thankful to have who they consider to be a reliable place-kicker once again.
Senior Franklin Arias, who sat out his junior season in 2012, made his debut in Friday night’s 21-0 victory at Nash Central.
Arias, wearing the No. 90 that his older brother, Ricardo, once wore for Tarboro, finished 1-for-2 on extra point attempts.
Arias had a short punt and a few average-length kickoffs, but coach Jeff Craddock said he knows the senior will improve with each week played.
“He really has a good leg,” Craddock said. “He was a little nervous, but it was his first time out here since being a sophomore. Sometimes you have to take those things into consideration. They are kids out here, and nerves get everybody.”
Rocky Mount Prep
Preparing for the next week after a loss in high school football never is easy.
Before Friday night, Rocky Mount Prep had never felt anything other than defeat.
They’ll prepare for Granville Central, a much tougher test than Gaston KIPP-Pride, this week with a little extra bounce in their step.
“It’s nice to be able to work on some positive things,” Reams said. “When they see the film and they see the mistakes, they’ll take it a lot better because we won. That’s always nice for that to happen. We’re very thankful – very, very thankful.”
Behind sophomore running back/quarterback Mark Tann, who outgained KIPP-Pride on Friday, the Jaguars picked up the first victory in program history. Tann’s score with 62 seconds to play gave Rocky Mount Prep its first varsity lead as well.
All of that came in the school’s first home game. The final score left the entire team in a mixed state of awe and happiness.
“It’s still a dream to me,” fullback Jarod Parker said after the teams’ 6-0 victory. “We put in so much work. Even though we didn’t put that many points on the board, it’s still a win to me. I don’t care.”
Nash Central never was able to jump-start its new-look offense in Friday night’s 21-0 season-opening loss to Tarboro.
Senior Khalil Macklin, who moved from quarterback to running back, was able to rush the ball seven times for only five yards.
Macklin was slowed by back spasms that bothered him during the week leading up to Friday’s game.
It was a tough night for the offense, which managed only 49 total yards, three first downs and saw first-year starting quarterback Tyler Barrow finish 2-for-9 for a total of negative-2 yards.
“The biggest positive was that nobody quit,” Nash Central coach Kevin Crudup said. “They played four quarters. We’ll take that as a positive and get better. We’re going to find some consistency on both sides of the ball and special teams. We’re going to be a good team come October.”
Rocky Mount High
The Gryphons were looking for a playmaker to lead their offense with the departure of running back Mason Hines.
Coach Jason Battle expected it to be wing back Rashawn Harris, who had an extremely productive offseason. Harris delivered Friday night during the Gryphons’ Week 1 victory with a pair of touchdowns.
“This is exactly what I expected from him,” Battle said. “I really expect a whole lot more from him. He played at the level that we have to play every game.”
Harris scored on a punt return in the first quarter that sparked the Gryphons’ offense and then helped Rocky Mount hold of South Granville with a touchdown on a screen pass later in the game.
“We showed a lot of resiliency and having to fight through a little bit of adversity,” Battle said. “It was impressive to see. A lot of people were still stuck in the Mason Hines-phase. It was good to see our kids respond.”
Battle said Rocky Mount made big strides since their scrimmages and expects the success to carry over in Rocky Mount’s home opener next week.
The Cougars’s year largely will be decided by how its young lines fare, but they can take a measure of solice knowing they probably won’t have a tougher test than they had Friday night at Southern Nash. The Firebirds are renowned for their line play, and all things considered, SouthWest Edgecombe felt encouraged, particularly with its defense.
“They never gave up, and that’s something to be proud of,” SouthWest Edgecombe coach Jonathan Cobb said. “... I thought our defense played great. You can’t expect to hold Southern Nash to a goose egg.”
The Cougars also proved to be deep and talented at the skill positions.
Quay Wooten always will be dangerous at quarterback, but running back Devontrell Hyman was the best player on the field regardless of team Friday.
Sophomore wide receiver Marcus Williams and senior tight end Devante Williams both made big plays, and Cobb said the team will try their best to use them.
“There are some young skill players, especially out there at wide receiver,” Cobb said. “If we can get the ball to them, we can do good things.”
SouthWest Edgecombe held Southern Nash’s power-running game in check for the majority of Friday night, and the Firebirds still could have scored 40 or more points.
Southern Nash missed out on several big-play opportunities, particularly in the passing game. That will be the final hurdle for a good offense to turn into a great one.
“We didn’t take advantage of some the passes,” Southern Nash coach Brian Foster said. “When you have guys open for touchdowns, we gotta hit that.”
One in particular, a wide-open third-quarter play-action that probably should have turned into a 96-yard touchdown pass, stung Foster as a missed chance.
“It was only 20 yards open,” Foster said as he rolled his eyes. “Somehow, we gotta relax and correct our errors.”