PREGAME CHATTER: The Function at the Junction never needs much introduction. SouthWest Edgecombe and Tarboro no longer are conference rivals, but as always, the only thing that matters is beating the intra-county rival. Cougars coach Jonathan Cobb makes his debut against three-time state champion Vikings coach Jeff Craddock. Neither team has played four standout quarters in a game this season, but if focus were ever an issue, this seemingly would be the night that it need not be coached.
WHAT IT MEANS: Neither team will cross paths after tonight, so the only thing to do is win and take bragging rights for another calendar year.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: The ballcarriers. There no doubt will be an abundance of opportunities for the talented backfields. Speed kills, but so do turnovers. The team with the fewest amount should come out on top.
PREGAME CHATTER: It’s finally time for both of these teams to realize if they are in fact as good as their records would indicate. Both teams come in undefeated and bolstered by stellar defenses. The Gryphons are allowing just 11 points per game – a stellar mark until compared with the Rampants, who have allowed just 19 points all year. None of the opponents so far for both teams have been slouches, either. Of the six combined teams, the Gryphons’ and Rampants’ opponents have just seven combined losses in three weeks.
WHAT IT MEANS: For Rocky Mount, this is its big nonconference test. Playing a former conference rival, there’s some history between these two teams, even if it is just on the sideline. Gryphons coach Jason Battle played against Greenville Rose when the two were conference rivals, and he never beat the Rampants as a player.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: The Rocky Mount High offensive line will have its hands more than full with Rose defensive end Kentavius Street, one of the better high school defensive ends in the country. He’s as dominant as they come and nearly was unblockable against Nash Central last week.
PREGAME CHATTER: The Bulldogs’ wild nonconference ride continues on the road at Hertford County. It’s not an easy place to play – evident by the Gryphons’ one-score victory there last week. The Bulldogs sure could use a spark, having scored just 15 points all year. To make matters worse, the defense has allowed more points every week thus far – 21, 26 then 34.
WHAT IT MEANS: Nash Central head coach Kevin Crudup knew this nonconference season would be a bear, but it has turned into a monster. Coming away with just one or two nonconference wins would be vital.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Running back Khalil Macklin could be the igniter the Bulldogs need. Hertford County allowed a defensive and special teams touchdown last week, and Macklin has the athleticism to jump-start the Bulldogs.
PREGAME CHATTER: Two weeks in a row, Southern Nash has escaped with a victory at home. While the injury bug has taken its toll on the Firebirds, coach Brian Foster refuses to allow that to be an excuse. Southern Nash finally goes on the road this week after three straight home games to start the season. They’ll find a tough atmosphere to play, especially if the Firebirds continue to hurt themselves.
WHAT IT MEANS: Southern Nash has proven it can win even when it isn’t at its best against lesser competition. What Foster probably wants to see more than anything is his team walk off the field and into its bye week with a resounding nonconference victory.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Southern Nash running back Richard Hall. Although it wasn’t his position to start the season, Hall is now the Firebirds’ best playmaker on offense. He has been able to make an impact in every phase of the game thus far this season.
PREGAME CHATTER: Not only is Warren County standing in the way of first-year Knights coach Randy Raper’s first potential victory, but so is one heck of a drive. The Knights are battle-tested after nearly upsetting Tarboro last week, and Warren County, which lost to NCISAA Harrells Christian Academy last week, seems like it’ll be the perfect opponent. The Knights just need to finish better this week after allowing 21 third-quarter points last week.
WHAT IT MEANS: In a wide open Big East Conference, learning how to win before the conference schedule begins can mean all the difference. Warren County has won just 13 games in the past five years and provides an excellent opportunity for the Knights to learn what it feels like to come out on top.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Raper himself. The former Wilson Hunt coach has made a habit out of winning big games. Still winless in his rebuilding project at Northern Nash, Raper has a chance to inspire and strategize his team to victory.
PREGAME CHATTER: After allowing 72 points in a Week 2 loss, a home opener probably sounds pretty good to the Eagles right about now. After a tackling performance described by coach B.W. Holt as the worst he has seen at Rocky Mount Academy, the week of practice probably wasn’t as good as home originally sounded. Holt should have his team prepared for its first of two games at home, including a matchup with defending state champion, Raleigh Word of God.
WHAT IT MEANS: With a tough opponent on deck for next week, Rocky Mount Academy can’t waste this game. The Eagles still have high hopes for this season, but achieving those dreams has to start with an understanding that their first loss is in the past.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: The Eagles’ defense. Rocky Mount Academy has no problem scoring points. It put up at least 40 points in two games to start the season. The Eagles just have to find a way to start stopping teams.
PREGAME CHATTER: Coach Don Reams said it himself: This is probably the best team the Jaguars have played up to this point in the season. That’s an even scarier proposition considering the Jaguars have allowed 50-plus points in each of the past two games while scoring just 20 all season.
WHAT IT MEANS: Wins will be tough to come by this year, but one chance still remains next week. The Jaguars travel to Gaston KIPP-Pride next Friday and learning from their mistakes will be key.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: The Jaguars’ mentality. Rocky Mount Prep has shown a defeatist nature in its past two losses. Building a program requires focus and a goal. The Jaguars have to realize what they are playing for.
PREGAME CHATTER: Realignment has taken away another rivalry. Southeast Halifax and North Edgecombe used to be Tar-Roanoke Conference foes, and tonight they’ll meet as nononference opponents. North Edgecombe had an early bye last week, which means it has had 13 days to dissect its previous performance, a 54-14 loss to SouthWest Edgecombe.
WHAT IT MEANS: With only two games played thus far, North Edgecombe still is in the process of deciding which players will help the team reach its potential.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: North Edgecombe’s defensive line. The first and best opportunity to stop a skilled Trojans offense – the team is averaging 39 points per game – is from the Warriors’ big men up front.
- Jessie H. Nunery & Justin Hite