PREGAME CHATTER: Anyone who picked these two teams to be undefeated seven weeks into the season and facing off for the lead in the Big East Conference, raise your hand. As expected, no honest hands. But here they are anyway. Wilson Hunt, one of the more dominant teams in Eastern North Carolina playing host to Rocky Mount High, which has doubled its win total from last season. Rocky Mount High first-year coach Jason Battle is off to the best start in recent Rocky Mount High history. Not even legend B.W. Holt started off his career with six wins – he won just five straight.
WHAT IT MEANS: For Wilson Hunt, a victory here is expected. Rocky Mount is looking for validation. Despite winning their first six games, the Gryphons might still be written off by some people as a fluke. Defeating a potential state championship contender erases that idea.
KEY MATCHUP: Wilson Hunt running back Josh Joyner vs. the Rocky Mount High front seven. No one has stopped Joyner yet, but the Gryphons have one of the better defenses in the conference. So far they are allowing fewer than 15 points per game. Only Hunt is better in the Big East.
PREGAME CHATTER: One week after being annihilated in Raleigh, the Eagles drive back to the west. This week, Rocky Mount Academy faces an opponent that might not be as good as the Raleigh Word of God team that beat the Eagles, 54-0, but St. David’s is no slouch. In last year’s season opener, Rocky Mount Academy lost 54-8. The Eagles are a far cry from that mark and have the offense to keep pace.
WHAT IT MEANS: If the Eagles want to finish above .500 this season, they have to win this game. That’s not up for debate. That’s a mathematical fact.
KEY MATCHUP: Rocky Mount Academy’s defense vs. Raleigh St. David’s. The Eagles have to tackle better for one, but they also have to find a way to slow down their opponents. The Eagles have won two of their past three games but have given up 152 in that same span.
PREGAME CHATTER: These two teams are on separate paths. Southeast Halifax comes in for its final nonconference game before deciding if it will contend for the Tar-Roanoke Conference championship. Rocky Mount Prep is coming off a pair of 35-plus point losses since its bye week.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Jaguars still are searching for that first win.
KEY MATCHUP: Rocky Mount Prep vs. itself. It’s becoming repetitive, but in order to compete late in games, the Jaguars have to protect the football. Rocky Mount Prep has to find a way to maintain possession.
PREGAME CHATTER: Tarboro enters the teeth of its Eastern Plains Conference schedule when it plays host to Kinston this evening. This matchup is big, but much of the shine has been taken off in recent weeks because Kinston has lost three of its past four games. Kinston was tied with Tarboro atop the N.C. AP 2-A Football poll a month ago, but only the three-time defending state champs have kept up their end of the bargain by remaining undefeated.
WHAT IT MEANS: Tarboro plays SouthWest Edgecombe next week. Wins by both teams tonight set up what could be one of the more important “Function at the Junction” games in recent memory.
KEY MATCHUP: Kinston defensive line vs. Tarboro backfield. Pick your poison. The Vikings are more than capable of big plays in the backfield. Quentin Roberson and Radja Bobbitt combined for nearly 350 yards and five touchdowns last week.
PREGAME CHATTER: The Cougars continue to improve each week, and they ride a three-game winning streak into tonight’s contest against North Pitt. SouthWest Edgecombe coach Raymond Cobb said his team played as well as it has in the past two seasons last week against Farmville Central. North Pitt edged SouthWest Edgecombe by two points last season.
WHAT IT MEANS: SouthWest Edgecombe wants to hold up its end of the deal and make next week’s game at Tarboro a battle of rivals who are undefeated in league play.
KEY MATCHUP: SW Edgecombe defense vs. N. Pitt quarterback Christopher Perry. Perry is a run/pass opportunist, and the Cougars’ first line of business should be slowing down the Panthers’ quarterback.
KIPP PRIDE (0-6, 0-2 T-RC) AT N. EDGECOMBE (2-4, 0-2 T-RC)
PREGAME CHATTER: North Edgecombe opened the season with hopes of competing for a league title, but as of now, they’ll settle for just putting a win on the Tar-Roanoke Conference board. The Warriors were beaten last week, 50-14, by Northampton County, which for all purposes took them out of the running for the top spot in the league. They’ll face a program that is winless this season as the Warriors celebrate homecoming.
WHAT IT MEANS: A confidence booster for North Edgecombe, which desperately needs a league victory to remain in the playoffs chase. The Warriors close their regular season with games against Gates County and Weldon during the next two weeks, and both are ahead of them in the league standings.
KEY MATCHUP: Special teams vs. Special teams. The Warriors fumbled a kickoff last week that led to the opponent’s score. A big return or two this week could take some pressure off an offense that has been up and down in recent weeks.
NASH CENTRAL (2-4, 0-1 BE) AT WILSON FIKE (1-5, 0-1)
PREGAME CHATTER: One team will be in decent shape after tonight, but which one? Making the playoffs means a top-four finish in the Big East, and the loser will be firmly in last place.
WHAT IT MEANS: This is close to a must-win for both sides. 0-2 in the conference is a tough hole from which to dig out.
KEY MATCHUP: Nash Central’s passing game vs. itself. The Bulldogs dropped four passes in Week 6, including a would-have-been touchdown. Someone has to step up and make plays for the Bulldogs to pull to .500 in the conference.
SO. NASH (5-1, 1-0 BE) AT NO. NASH (2-4, 0-1)
PREGAME CHATTER: Don’t be fooled by last week’s scores – this game is much closer than advertised. This is a traditionally tight game, and the Knights know their opponent well. As usual, a few plays will decide the winner.
WHAT IT MEANS: It’s a rivalry game on the conference schedule. It means plenty to both teams.
KEY MATCHUP: Rashid Campbell vs. Northern Nash’s run defense. If the Knights can stop Campbell, they’ll be in good shape. If not, Southern Nash figures to head home 2-0 in the conference.
– Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz