No matter what kind of season is on the horizon, almost every coach and player across the state went to bed Friday night asking themselves the same questions.
Did the program earn a victory?
What did the team do well in its season-opener?
What mistakes were they able to escape with?
For Nash Central, the latter might have been the most important thing to ponder after dropping a 21-0 decision to Tarboro in the 2013 season opener.
The Bulldogs do not have a long leash this season. With only 32 players in uniform against a Vikings program that has reached five consecutive 2-A state title games, Nash Central’s margin for error was minimal.
The Bulldogs’ biggest hiccup came early after defensive back Quentin McNair picked off a pass and returned it to Tarboro’s 6-yard line. Nash Central failed to score in four plays, and Tarboro responded with a 15-play, 96-yard drive to take a lead it never was in danger of losing.
“If we score first, it’s a different game,” Nash Central coach Kevin Crudup said. “It puts Tarboro out of their comfort zone, and we couldn’t do that because we didn’t put points on the board.”
The Bulldogs (0-1) suffered a similar fate midway through the third quarter and facing a 14-0 deficit. After recovering a fumble on a punt return, Nash Central was able to move the ball from the Tarboro 32-yard line to only the 13 before the drive stalled.
In all, it was a promising night for Nash Central’s defense, which allowed a pair of long-first half scoring drives, but it kept Tarboro away from the big play.
It also was a discouraging night on offense – the Bulldogs finished with 49 total yards – and special teams, where a number of punts went array.
“We were in the red zone twice and came up with no points,” Crudup said. “Against a team like Tarboro, you have to score when you have your opportunities.”
A team like Tarboro (1-0) can escape season-openers with victories despite not playing perfect football.
The fumbles gave Nash Central chances, even though the Bulldogs did not take advantage of them. Tarboro had a pair of touchdowns called back because of holding and block in the back penalties. But the Vikings still were strong.
Playing in their first game since a disappointing 24-20 loss to East Lincoln in last December’s 2-A state title game, the Vikings showed they have the canvas from which to paint a pretty picture.
Senior Radja Bobbitt ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, and each of his backfield mates ran well to give the team balance.A defensive unit that returned eight starters set the tone with its first series.
“That might have been the play of the whole game,” Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. “If they score, they can go up and momentum is in their favor. Coach (A.B.) Whitley’s defense was on point. Thankfully, our defense was pretty darn tough for this time in the season.”
Nash Central 0
T 7 7 0 7 – 21
NC 0 0 0 0 – 0
T – Radja Bobbitt 10 run (kick failed), 1:44
T – Jerrod Bennett 8 run (Deshan Farmer conversion), 5:11
T – Bobbitt 17 run (Franklin Arias kick), 7:04
17 First downs...............3
0 Passing yards..........(-2)
277 Total offense.........49
Rushing – T: Radja Bobbit 17-145; Deshan Farmer 10-45; Julian Lee 8-42; Jerrod Bennett 6-34; Rayshawn Battle 5-11; Janaill Battle-Johnson 1-1; Malcolm Speller 3-0; Damian Johnson 2-2; Stephen Eason 2-(-3). NC: Marquez Horton 5-27; Tyler Barrow 2-10; Charles Harvey Jr. 4-9; Khalil Macklin 7-5
Passing – T: Tobias Pittman 0-1, 0. NC: Tyler Barrow 2-9, (-2).
Receiving – NC: Michael Morris 2-(-2).
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org