Tarboro and Southern Nash have extended a nonconference football series through 2016.
The two schools began a series in 2013, and the game they played in Tarboro turned out to be the best regular season game on either team’s schedule.
With two of the better support systems for football in Eastern North Carolina, the decision was agreeable on both sides even though Southern Nash is a 3-A school and Tarboro is part of the 1-A classification.
“I’m a glutton for punishment,” Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said, “so I signed on for an extra two years.”
This season’s game will be played Oct. 3 in Bailey. The series then goes back to Tarboro in 2015 and returns to Bailey in 2016.
Southern Nash has been a consistent playoffs qualifier under coach Brian Foster, while Tarboro has been to five state championship games in the past six years and won three 2-A state championships.
With a quality opponent for each team only a county away, the pairing makes sense, Southern Nash coach Brian Foster said.
“I think it’ll be really fun for fans over the next few years,” Foster said. “We both try to do similar things. ... It’s one of those hard-nosed games where you pick each other up and shake hands after, and I think the fans like that.”
The 2013 game was a memorable one for both teams.
The lead changed hands eight times before Southern Nash completed a 14-play, 67-yard touchdown drive with just more than two minutes to play to take a 24-23 lead.
After a dramatic stop on defense, the Firebirds became the first team to win at Tarboro since 2007.
“They were able to man-up and score late in that game, and we didn’t make the few plays we needed to make there,” Craddock said. “It was hats off to them for making the plays at the right time. Hopefully, we can return the favor this year.”
The game had influence even deeper into the season. An already beat-up Southern Nash team took on further injury in winning the Tarboro game and lost three of its next four games.
It had quite the opposite effect for Tarboro, which awoke to win seven straight games before losing to Wallace-Rose Hill in the third round of 1-A playoffs.
Both teams believe the series is good for their programs, which is the core of the deal.
“They’re two very similar programs with structure that goes all the way through middle school,” Craddock said. “When you get to Friday you have two good teams, and that’s what makes it special.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz @rmtelegram.com