PREGAME CHATTER:Both teams are coming off disappointing games in Week 2. Tarboro suffered a rare regular-season loss by falling to Washington, while Northern Nash took a step back from an encouraging Week 1 with a 45-0 loss at Elizabeth City Northeastern. Both sides had plenty to address after last week, and to an extent, both still are trying to find their strengths. A physical game should teach both teams something.
WHAT IT MEANS: The health of the program. Tarboro’s program is in rare air among North Carolina football programs, and this game traditionally has been a good barometer for Tarboro. The Northern Nash game has been a confidence-builder for the Vikings in the past, with three straight hard-fought wins giving the team an early-season push. Whichever team wins will be feeling significantly better about its season.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Radja Bobbitt. Tarboro’s No. 1 running back will take on more carries with injuries in the Vikings’ backfield, and he’ll be the key for the Knights as well. Northern Nash allowed big play after big play in last year’s meeting. Winning this matchup means capping the Vikings’ big play potential, and preventing big plays means keeping Bobbitt in check.
PREGAME CHATTER:Southern Nash hasn’t been near its best through two games, but the Firebirds are 2-0 nevertheless. That said, Southern Nash is in search of a crispness that has been missing. The Firebirds are talented enough to win even when they don’t play to their potential, but Bunn is good enough to win this game if that trend continues. The Wildcats nearly beat Southern Nash in 2010 and 2011.
WHAT IT MEANS: Playoffs seeding. Nobody can earn a first-round home game this early in the season but surely they can lose one. Southern Nash has lost a road game in the first round of the 3-AA playoffs three years in a row. Avoiding another road game to start the playoffs – and utilizing a significant home-field advantage – means beating weaker teams. Southern Nash surely is the favorite tonight.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Southern Nash’s running game. The Firebirds already have seen four running backs go down with injuries, and it’s no secret that Southern Nash’s identity comes from its run game. Richard Hall, normally a wide receiver, stepped in last week, but he’ll need help from inexperienced backs tonight.
PREGAME CHATTER: It has been a contrasting first two weeks for the Cougars because of its opponents. 3-A Southern Nash had significant advantages along the lines against the Cougars, while SouthWest Edgecombe had the upper hand against 1-A North Edgecombe. Greene Central is more of a peer than SouthWest Edgecombe’s first two opponents.
WHAT IT MEANS: A new start. The Rams are in the midst of rebuilding, but a near win at Pikeville Aycock last week showed they look better than last season. Greene Central will be aiming for its first win.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Devontrell Hyman. SouthWest Edgecombe’s No. 5 has been nearly unstoppable through two weeks, and keeping him from running wild – he scored four times on five touches last week – has to be focal point No. 1 for Greene Central.
PREGAME CHATTER:If Nash Central was looking to end its losing streak, it took a pretty difficult route. Rose has been one of the better teams in 4-A through two weeks, hammering Raleigh Athens Drive in Week 1 and holding off Wilmington Laney last week. The Rampants are playing like a real contender at the moment. It’ll take a special night from Nash Central to hang in this game.
WHAT IT MEANS: Continued growth. Nonconference games won’t make or break Nash Central, but this is an excellent opportunity to grow. The Bulldogs are familiar with Rose from the Nash County Jamboree, though a game that counts will be a little different than a series of scrimmages. The eye test will be more important than the final score for Nash Central.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Kentavius Street. The Rampants’ star is ranked as the sixth-best defensive end in the country by ESPN. It isn’t by mistake that nearly 20 major FBS programs have offered Street a scholarship. Nash Central has to keep him out of its backfield.
PREGAME CHATTER:Rocky Mount Prep has been on the opposite ends of a shutout in the first two weeks of the season. Oddly enough, Louisburg has been on the opposite ends of two 50-point outbursts to start the season. On the road again, Rocky Mount Prep will need to find a way to both start up its offense – one score in two weeks – and fuel its defense, which allowed 56 points last week.
WHAT IT MEANS: Rocky Mount Prep always will be looking for that elusive victory because this season, the Jaguars will have more of a chance. Preparing for conference season always is important but preparing for another matchup with Gaston KIPP-Pride in two weeks could be just as key.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Louisburg senior running back Antonio Smith. Smith has carried the ball 48 times already this season and surpassed 150 yards in each of the first two games. The Jaguars have to slow him down.
PREGAME CHATTER: So far this season Rocky Mount High has faced only undefeated teams, although that’s not saying much since it’s only Week 3. However, this week will be a true test for Rocky Mount. Hertford County knocked off Wilson Hunt, the perennial Big East Conference favorite, last week. The Gryphons have a standout defense and a lot of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
WHAT IT MEANS: A chance at a convincing 3-0 for the Gryphons. Rocky Mount, with an emphatic win, could vault itself to the front of the line in the Twin Counties, especially with former conference rival Greenville Rose visiting next week.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: The Gryphons defense pitched its first shutout under coach Jason Battle last week, and the unit will look to do the same – or at least try. They have the athletes to do it.
PREGAME CHATTER:If B.W. Holt has developed a rival in his short time as coach of the Eagles, it would be Hobgood Academy. Two evenly matched teams played down to the wire last year only to have the game end on what Holt calls a controversial two-point conversion. Expect another great game.
WHAT IT MEANS: A victory here could go a long way for Rocky Mount Academy. This is one of those toss-up games: The Eagles could win or they could lose. If they’re on the right side of enough toss-up games, the Eagles could play host to a playoffs game.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Rocky Mount Academy’s offensive line is made up of three seniors. They paved the way for more than 400 yards on the ground and 49 points in the season opener. Dominate again and the Eagles could win again.
– Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz