PINETOPS – By the night’s end, SouthWest Edgecombe’s cupboards were bare – it had tried everything.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, their side of the scoreboard was just as empty.
Tarboro completely shut down the Cougars’ offense in a 14-0 victory Friday at SouthWest Edgecombe High School, the Vikings’ fourth consecutive win in the Function at the Junction series.
“I felt like I threw everything I had offensively at them,” SouthWest Edgecombe coach Jonathan Cobb said. “They stopped it all. It didn’t really matter what we called. They had an answer for it.”
Tarboro (3-1) held the Cougars to 67 yards rushing and 116 yards of total offense, far and away season lows.
SouthWest Edgecombe (2-2) gained eight first downs on the night, and two of them came by way of Tarboro penalties.
After running all over the past three opponents, SouthWest Edgecombe running back Devontrell Hyman was held to 32 yards on 15 carries by Tarboro.
“I can’t imagine playing better defense,” Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. “To come over here and get a shutout, that’s big time.”
Craddock said the Vikings saw film from the first three weeks and were “very concerned” about the Cougars’ ability to break long runs at any time.
The Vikings went to work at identifying trends in the Cougars’ offense, and their gameplan worked to near perfection. Tarboro defensive coordinator A.B. Whitley – long the defensive coordinator for Cobb’s father, Raymond, at North Edgecombe – created the same thing Cobb saw on many nights in Leggett: A dominant defense.
“They have a great defense, and they won the line of scrimmage all night,” Cobb said. “We just never could quite get it going offensively. My hat’s off to A.B. Whitley and the Tarboro staff.”
Tarboro linebacker Saiid Murphy said the Vikings knew what was coming nearly all night. When they saw a formation, they had a good idea which play was coming.
“Little things like that make all the difference,” Murphy said. “We knew just about every play they were going to run and we just stopped it.”
Though Hyman played with an injured ankle, Cobb said it probably wouldn’t have mattered who was running. Tarboro was just better.
Murphy, too, gave credit to Whitley’s gameplan.
“If we know what’s coming, you won’t run on us,” Murphy said. “We’re too fundamentally sound for that.”
Tarboro had a 26-yard touchdown pass called back because of an illegal block in the first quarter – the Vikings’ fourth negated touchdown of the young season – but took a 7-0 lead on Radja Bobbitt’s seven-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.
Malcolm Speller’s 25-yard kickoff return to begin the second half gave the Vikings possession inside SouthWest Edgecombe territory, then Bobbitt broke a 41-yard touchdown run three plays later to give the Vikings all they would need.
SouthWest Edgecombe continued to power run, but on Friday, the Vikings weren’t allowing much of anything.
“The thing about Tarboro is it’s tough to run outside on them because they have such great team speed,” Cobb said. “If you’re going to swing with Tarboro in here, you better be able to run it between the tackles.”
SouthWest Edgecombe received a 30-yard break with back-to-back Tarboro unsportsmanlike penalties early in the fourth quarter, but that drive ultimately ended in a turnover on downs.
With the Vikings’ move to 1-A, the two teams can’t play again. The Tarboro seniors will graduate with a perfect record against their intra-county rivals, and for this one, anyway, the defense is to thank.
“Coach Whitley got them ready like he always does,” Craddock said. “Those boys played hard. They wanted to prove a point, and I think they did.”
SouthWest Edgecombe 0
T 0 7 7 0 – 14
SWE 0 0 0 0 – 00
T – Radja Bobbitt 7 run (Franklin Arias kick), 2:54
T – Bobbitt 41 run (Arias kick), 10:26
14 First downs...................8
28 Passing yards..............49
268 Total offense.............116
Rushing – T: Bobbitt 22-146; Marquese Clapp 9-43; Rayshawn Battle 7-34; Miltavious Hinton 3-27; Tobias Pittman 2-2; Team 2-(-2). SWE: Devontrell Hyman 15-32; Quay Wooten 5-20; Devonte Williams 5-5; Eason Harrington 1-4; Barry Smith 2-3; Isaiah Lewis 2-3.
Passing – T: Pittman 2-2-0, 28. SWE: Wooten 4-11-0, 49.
Receiving – T: Keitheon Battle 2-28. SWE: Smith 1-20; Fabrion Bandy 1-18; Hyman 2-11.
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org