PREGAME CHATTER: From one nonconference rival to another for both teams this week. The Gryphons might see a more heated rivalry in this one, while the Cougars tone down a bit. But when two schools share a border, don’t expect anything to be held back.
WHAT IT MEANS: For both teams, this is the final tune up before the real season starts. Rocky Mount and SouthWest Edgecombe are both among the favorites in their respective conferences, and one last prep game will be key.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: SouthWest Edgecombe running back Devontrell Hyman has been on a tear to start the season. The Gryphons have to find a way to stop him, but Rocky Mount has the talent on the defensive side of the ball.
PREGAME CHATTER: Northern Nash’s defense looks to be the unit upon which the Knights rely. The Knights’ defense held Warren County to eight points in last week’s victory and played very well against Tarboro, though special teams cost the Knights a win. Northern Nash and Southern Vance both played Elizabeth City Northeastern – and both gave up more than 40 points and were shutout – but also share a common theme. Both are trying to figure themselves out. One will take a big step tonight.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Knights have their first win. How about a winning streak? Northern Nash’s first home game comes against a losing team, and winless Smithfield-Selma will visit next week. The Knights very well could improve to .500, but they’ll have to take this one first.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Black out. Northern Nash will debut its new black home jerseys tonight, and the players are excited to wear them. Add that to the first home game of the new era, and the Knights should be full of energy to start this game.
PREGAME CHATTER: Raleigh Word of God knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs in the first round last year, but the Rams hardly look as dominant as they were in the recent past. After winning their second consecutive NCISAA 2-A state title two years ago, Word of God hasn’t won yet this year and has allowed 124 points in its past two combined losses.
WHAT IT MEANS: No matter the records, this could be a statement game for Rocky Mount Academy. The Eagles also will have to battle the allure of Word of God if they hope to come away with what could be a pivotal win for the program.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: One defense has to prove something. Both have made a habit of missed tackles. Both have given up way too many points and even more yards at times this season.
PREGAME CHATTER: It’s a battle of opposites. Nash Central has played excellent defense but has scored only 22 points in four weeks; Beddingfield has scored at least 24 points in every game but is allowing 30 points per game. When the Bulldogs have the ball, one of those trends will have to regress to the mean.
WHAT IT MEANS: With 4-A power Durham Hillside coming to town next week, this is Nash Central’s best chance to earn a win in its nonconference schedule. The Bulldogs have to make this one count.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Nash Central’s offense. Moving the ball has been a struggle for the Bulldogs so far this season. Nash Central did break a big play last week with Tyler Barrow’s 66-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Macklin, but Nash Central hasn’t had much of a sustained attack yet. If the Bulldogs can manage even a few scoring drives, they could earn their first win.
PREGAME CHATTER: Tarboro’s offense is not as explosive as it has been in past years. Injuries and graduations can hurt even the best of programs, but what the Vikings seemingly never have let go of is the ability to play good defense. Last week’s 14-0 shutout of rival SouthWest Edgecombe was impressive. Tonight, the Vikings will seek a similar effort to carry them to victory against a Roanoke Rapids squad that lost to Southern Nash last week.
WHAT IT MEANS: Scores are deceiving, and although Tarboro’s margins of victory have not been outstanding, all the Vikings care about is steady improvement individually and collectively.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Tarboro’s defense. Until a team figures out how to give the Vikings some problems, it won’t matter that the team’s offense is scoring fewer points than in past seasons.
PREGAME CHATTER: North Edgecombe returned from a bye last week, and although the Warriors’ overall play showed improvement, its efficiency did not. Four fumbles led to a 22-14 loss at former conference rival Southeast Halifax. Tonight, the Warriors move down their old Tar-Roanoke Conference schedule and play host to Weldon, which usually brings to the table a tough, athletic brand of football.
WHAT IT MEANS: September comes and goes quickly. North Edgecombe would like to begin rounding into form for the opening of conference play in a few weeks.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: The adjustment factor. If the Warriors can tweak things like mishandled snaps and handoffs, they easily can put themselves in position for a second victory.
PREGAME CHATTER: There won’t be many games in which the Jaguars are favored this year, but this week they are – and rightfully so. After defeating KIPP-Pride in Week 1, Rocky Mount Prep has put up 34 points in the past two weeks. The Jaguars scored only 40 points last year.
WHAT IT MEANS: This week has a good chance to be win No. 2 in school history for Rocky Mount Prep. While the Jaguars appear to be improving during the past three weeks, KIPP-Pride has scored just 14 points this year.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: The Jaguars’ defense has to improve. After shutting out KIPP-Pride in Week 1, the Jaguars have allowed 50-plus points in each of the past three weeks.
- Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz