PREGAME CHATTER: The Vikings might be 1-A, but they’re starting the season the same way they have in the past: With solid 3-A programs. They are two teams on different levels in more than one case. Tarboro is returning a mostly veteran squad with loads of varsity experience. Nash Central is in turnover and will need a big class of sophomores to do some heavy lifting.
WHAT IT MEANS: The 2011 contest between the two – in which a talented Nash Central squad ambushed Tarboro and ended the Vikings’ 23-game winning streak – remains fresh in Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock’s mind. The Vikings take this game seriously. Tarboro has made it a point to start its year with a win against Nash Central.
THE DIFFERENCE- MAKER: Nash Central’s defense. The Bulldogs still are trying to find the right mix with personnel, and they surely will be tested tonight. Tarboro lives on misdirection, and anything less than good discipline from the Bulldogs will be trouble.
PREGAME CHATTER: This is the beginning of four consecutive road games for the Knights, quite a test for a team with many unanswered questions. The Pirates were a 2-A playoffs team last season, as are the next two teams on the schedule, Elizabeth City Northeastern and Tarboro. The first few weeks present an excellent opportunity for Northern Nash to learn how to beat good teams.
WHAT IT MEANS: A few victories could make all the difference for Northern Nash. The past two years were filled with frustrating near-misses in nonconference games for the Knights, and as losses piled up, the team lost its sense of belief. New coach Randy Raper aims to change the culture from the bottom. Nothing could jump-start his tenure like a Week 1 victory.
THE DIFFERENCE- MAKER: The Knights’ run defense. Everybody ran on Northern Nash last season, which tired out two-way players and kept the Knights’ offense on the sidelines. Northern Nash will be in good shape if it can obtain regular stops.
PREGAME CHATTER: The Sweet Potato Bowl was a classic last season. Southern Nash quarterback Deon Lavender threw a 43-yard touchdown pass with 1:22 remaining to give the Firebirds a 28-24 victory, and as far as both coaches are concerned, this game could be just as close. A few mistakes could be the difference.
WHAT IT MEANS: Southern Nash has all the makings of a special season. An excellent coaching staff has a deep, talented roster with plenty of returning experience. Firebirds coach Brian Foster has downplayed all of that, but an important home game against good opposition could tell a lot about Southern Nash.
THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER: SouthWest Edgecombe’s lines. The Cougars are young up and down the lines, which is where Southern Nash does its best work. If the Cougars are losing the line of scrimmage on a regular basis, it could be a long night. If they’re up to the task, SouthWest Edgecombe could leave Bailey 1-0.
PREGAME CHATTER: The game many years in the making finally has arrived. Rocky Mount Prep eagerly awaited its first varsity game a year ago, and now, the Jaguars finally will play their first home game. After a full season on the road, the Jaguars will play four home games at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex. More than where they are playing, it is an important game for the Jaguars, who finished 0-9 last season and never were in striking distance for a victory in any of those contests.
WHAT IT MEANS: KIPP-Pride defeated Rocky Mount Prep, 38-6. It last season was the Jaguars’ narrowest defeat of the season. If coach Don Reams’ squad is to take positive steps this season, tonight’s game will signal as a confidence booster or detractor for the psyche of the program.
THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER: The Rocky Mount Sports Complex. The stadium cannot earn the Jaguars any first downs, key defensive stops or points on the scoreboard, but simply having a place to call home can give the team a morale boost entering its first game of the season.
PREGAME CHATTER: The Warriors begin Year 2 under coach Keith Parisher tonight, and they’ll do so against a program that quickly would trade places with them. Northwest Halifax finished the 2012 season without a win, and it has dropped 15 consecutive games. North Edgecombe finished 5-6 last season, which included a victory in the first round of the 1-A state playoffs.
WHAT IT MEANS: North Edgecombe’s schedule will strengthen from this point forward, so it is important for the Warriors to take care of a lesser opponent.
THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Senior Rodney Conyers, a run/pass threat, will make his first varsity start after earning the job in a three-player race during the preseason.
PREGAME CHATTER: The Gryphons begin Year 2 under coach Jason Battle, and they seemingly have a tough matchup to open the 2013 season. Three of South Granville’s four losses last season came by seven or fewer points. Whether or not South Granville is a similar team remains to be seen, but it is a near certainty that Rocky Mount – at least not right away – will not be the same team as last season.
The Gryphons are replacing four starters on offense, including their leading rusher. There is plenty of talent to fill such spots, and tonight is the team’s first opportunity to find out who is ready to do so.
WHAT IT MEANS: Rocky Mount has a solid nonconference schedule, so any victory along the first month’s path can be considered a good thing.
THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER: The Gryphons’ backfield. Broderick Caudle and Rashawn Harris go from co-stars to headliners beginning this evening, and strong performances from the duo could make tonight’s personnel adjustments much easier.
– Jessie H. Nunery, Nick Piotrowicz