So often this season, Rocky Mount Prep has lost control of games in the second half.
But with the largest crowd of the season behind the Jaguars in their first homecoming game Friday night, Rocky Mount Prep made history once again with a 38-16 victory – winning their first conference game.
“I think it was big,” Rocky Mount Prep coach Don Reams said. “You could just see it. It was big for the school. It was big for the team. ... It was nice to have the school spirit. The faculty and the student body got more into this game than any other.”
Tied, 16-16, at halftime, Rocky Mount Prep (2-7, 1-2) scored three times in the second half behind a stellar defense.
“It was probably the best game that we’ve played,” Reams said.
Jacob Hunter doesn’t always play defense, so when he had the chance Friday night, he wanted to make the most of it.
During the Eagles’ 52-6 victory against Cary Christian, Hunter made the most of just about every touch. He scored five times – twice on defense and once on special teams – as the Eagles rolled.
“He’s only going to get better,” Holt said of Hunter, a sophomore with 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash.
After allowing 85 points in the past two games, Rocky Mount High coach Jason Battle didn’t know exactly what to do with his team to fix the bleeding.
“I don’t have an answer for that right this minute,” Battle said. “We have to figure it out in a hurry, that’s for sure.”
Rocky Mount (6-3, 1-2) allowed big plays for the second week in a row but also was gashed on the ground. Battle said it wasn’t just the defense’s fault. The offense has to take some blame too after its second conference game with less than 14 points.
“When you know your defense is struggling a little bit, you have to do something offensively to accommodate that,” Battle said. “We’re not working together as two cohesive units.”
The Gryphons still control their own destiny, facing Southern Nash and Northern Nash in the final two weeks of the season.
Brian Foster has been at Southern Nash for more than 20 years, but he couldn’t remember a night where the Firebirds gained fewer yards than they did Friday in a 23-13 loss to Wilson Hunt.
Southern Nash was held to 122 yards of total offense in its second loss in three weeks.
Quarterback Deon Lavender was injured in the game, which means the entire Firebirds backfield is not at 100 percent. Tight end Alonte Thomas didn’t play Friday.
Foster said he still is glad to be coaching his team, but this year took a wrong turn.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” he said. “The game had a different flow to it. It was just a bad night, but you have to give (Hunt) credit. A lot of that goes to them.”
The Bulldogs have tried just about everything on the offensive side of the ball, and so far, not much has worked.
Nash Central was held to negative yardage for the second time this season in a 21-0 loss Friday. It has scored 47 points through nine games.
With a young roster and an inexperienced offensive line, though, coach Kevin Crudup said the Bulldogs’ options are limited with what they can do.
“We’re still trying to stick with the basic stuff because we don’t want to confuse the young guys even more,” Crudup said. “We’re trying to keep it as simple as possible because it’s hard to stay on schedule as it is.”
The Knights threw for 150 yards and two touchdowns Friday in a 21-0 victory against Nash Central, and the offense looked more balanced than it has all season.
Northern Nash coach Randy Raper said the Knights will have to stay that way to create a Big East winning streak.
“We’ve got to be able to throw the ball to open up the run a little bit,” Raper said. “As you can see, they were putting nine, 10 people in the box and not letting us run. We threw the ball pretty well (Friday), but we still got a long way to go with our pass protection.”
With their best offensive play on the sideline, North Edgecombe’s offense never gained any momentum Friday in a 42-14 loss to Northampton County.
Sophomore Antwoine Pittman, the team’s leading rusher, missed the game after suffering a bruised shoulder Wednesday in practice.
“We didn’t want to risk him being out longer than he had to be out,” Warriors coach Keith Parisher said.
The Warriors (4-4, 1-2 TRC) did not sustain any drives often, found themselves in third-and-long situations and both their scores came off kick returns.
North Edgecombe is in fourth place in the conference with only two games remaining, including the season-finale against Tarboro.
The Cougars do not have the luxury of being the biggest team in the Eastern Plains Conference, and coach Jonathan Cobb has taken notice of when his team backs down physically and mentally.
He saw as much Friday night in the team’s 21-7 loss at Farmville Central.
The Jaguars scored on the game’s first play from scrimmage, and the Cougars never recovered.
SouthWest Edgecombe finished with only 199 total yards, and the Cougars (4-5, 1-2 EPC) dropped to fourth place in the conference.
“We have to get tougher,” Cobb said. “I think our focus this week has to be being mentally tougher. Strength is one thing, but toughness is another. You don’t have to be the biggest or strongest to be tough.”
From the outside looking in, it seemed as if Vikings coach Jeff Craddock made a quarterback change because of two fumbles Friday night.
In reality, Craddock said he took Daniel Whitaker out of the game in favor of Loody Hinton because he still is evaluating the two players.
Whitaker fumbled a snap and had a poor pitch during the second quarter of the team’s 48-0 victory against Riverside-Martin, but Craddock said the right to be the team’s No. 1 quarterback is still an open discussion for the time being.
For his part, Hinton finished with 90 yards rushing, including a 62-yard score for Tarboro (7-2, 3-0 TRC), the No. 5 team in the 2-A ranks.
“I have great confidence in both of them,” Craddock said. “I want to try and give equal time. I want to see who is faking the best and making plays the best. Pretty soon we will have a No. 1 QB and a backup. I’m pleased with both. They are both young kids doing the best they can.”