SouthWest Edgecombe is 1-2 on paper, though it thinks its schedule is preparing it much better than the record indicates.
The Cougars’ two losses were to Southern Nash in Week 1 and Wilson Hunt on Friday. Both opponents finished in the top half of the Big East Conference last season and qualified for the 3-AA playoffs.
Coach Raymond Cobb said the schedule is difficult and gives his team opportunities to improve.
“I mean, we play the toughest schedule around here,” Cobb said. “As long as our kids keep working, which there’s no doubt in my mind they will, it has got to help us when we get to conference.”
SouthWest Edgecombe plays host to Rocky Mount High in Week 4 before traveling to Eastern Plains Conference defending champion and 2-AA state finalist Kinston in Week 5.
“We got another tough one next Friday night against Rocky Mount, but I think playing Southern Nash and playing North Edgecombe and playing Hunt – hopefully we’ll come back next week and be a better football team,” Cobb said.
Rocky Mount High
For the first two weeks of the season, the special teams unit was a hinderance. On Friday, the Gryphons’ special teams unit was extra special.
Quarterback and punter J.T. Smith had struggled punting the ball through the first two weeks but stuck four punts inside Hertford County’s 20-yard line. He also pinned the Bears inside their own 5-yard line twice.
The Gryphons (3-0) worked on kick coverage during pregame drills, and it paid off, too. While Hertford County fumbled the ball four times on kickoffs, the Gryphons allowed only one possession to start outside of the 30-yard line.
On top of that, senior running back Mason Hines recorded his second kickoff return touchdown of the season. Just like the first one, he used a fake reverse to find open space.
“It’s not always my call. It’s not always his (coach Jason Battle’s) call,” Hines said. “It kind of flip-flops.”
On a must-have fourth-and-six with less than two minutes remaining against Northern Nash, Tarboro’s coaching staff called a play in which quarterback Aaron Moore rolled to his left, then lobbed a pass to Tyquan Lewis, who leaped, tipped it to himself and caught a game-clinching touchdown.
Not bad for a play the Vikings had never ran before.
“We really wanted to run isolation left and boot to the right, and just put Tyquan out there,” Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. “We had never really ran that exact play. It’s a form of our iso pass, but the ball was on the hash and we wanted to give Aaron more room to run or boot if (Northern Nash) sucked down.”
Moore finished the game in spite of a shoulder injury, though Craddock was uncertain about his status for Friday’s game against North Edgecombe.
Running back Quentin Roberson didn’t play in the second half because of hamstring tightness, and Craddock said linebacker Saiid Murphy is out for a few more weeks.
Craddock said the defense’s effort is fine, but the unit needs to improve regardless of who’s on the field.
“Like I tell the guys, ‘We are who we are,’” Craddock said. “There ain’t nobody coming out of the stands or ain’t nobody coming off the street. We are who we are.”
The Knights have come a long way on the offensive side of the ball, and the statistics prove it. Through three games, the Knights have 90 points – a mark they needed nine games to reach in 2011.
But the Knights are still just 1-2, as they haven’t had much consistency on the other side of the ball, shown in a 47-35 loss to Tarboro on Friday.
“I expected to score 35,” Northern Nash coach Mickey Crouch said. “I would have never thought we would have given up almost 50 points.”
The Knights’ three best players – Quay Mann, Marquez Farmer and Kendrick Richardson – all play both offense and defense. When they and the other two-way players need a break, the fill-ins haven’t been able to hold back opposing offenses.
Tarboro ran for nearly 400 yards against the Knights on Friday.
As Northern Nash moves on to Week 4, Crouch said a big focus of the coaching staff will be shoring up the defense’s second unit.
“When we put our second people in, they got to be able to play,” Crouch said. “We got to learn how to play defense. When you average 30 points a game, you ought to be able to win games.”
The Firebirds are 3-0, and it looks like they have quickly solved their biggest question coming into this season: the running backs corps.
Having lost three running backs from 2011 – two of which signed college scholarships – Southern Nash was eager to see how a new group would fare.
After Thursday’s 37-14 victory at Bunn, coach Brian Foster and the Firebirds seemingly don’t have much reason to worry.
Rashid Campbell finished with 210 yards and two touchdowns, while Sebastian O’Neal and Taylor Finch combined for 117 yards and two scores behind a strong offensive line.
“They surprised me the other night,” Foster said. “I’m pleased overall with them. Rashid is great at seeing the cutbacks, and he doesn’t do it behind the line. He does it in it and past it. He works up the field. He has waited a long time to show what he can do.”
Southern Nash takes an undefeated record into its first home game Friday night against Roanoke Rapids.
“I’m really impressed with this group,” Foster said.
Nash Central was expecting a much closer game Friday night, but instead the Bulldogs eased away from Roanoke Rapids with a 33-7 victory.
“It’s usually a tough environment to play in,” Bulldogs coach Kevin Crudup said. “We scored first, got momentum and were able to keep it for four quarters.”
Crudup said Nash Central (2-1) has improved on both sides of the ball, especially in its offensive line play, which has helped the adjustment of junior quarterback Khalil Macklin, who played running back the past two seasons.
Nash Central played Friday night without senior running back Jarrod Richardson (ankle), but received good news on senior place-kicker Zach Conner. Conner is recovering from an ACL injury suffered during spring soccer play. He has been cleared by doctors to resume activity, and Crudup said he is hopeful Conner can begin playing by the start of conference action.
Rocky Mount Prep
If there was one player the Jaguars couldn’t lose, it was made obvious on Friday night.
Quarterback Isaiah Lynch missed the game for personal reasons, which coach Don Reams understood. As a result, Rocky Mount Prep is 0-3 after a 63-0 loss to Northampton County.
Without his quarterback, Reams had to move players around and no one seemed to find a rhythm.
“The chemistry of Isaiah not being there really had its toll on us,” Reams said. “With the turnovers, it went downhill.”
The Jaguars, who face Plymouth next week, only turned over the ball six times – much better than 14 the previous week – but played two different quarterbacks. Mark Tann took the snaps in the first half before Percey Harper, a 120-pound safety, went under center for the final 24 minutes.
Reams said Harper along with fullback Jared Parker, would have earned the game balls for their commitment and dedication.
The confusion was just too much to handle.
“At times, we looked like a Chinese fire drill out there,” Reams said. “I’m trying to move backs around and re-adjust. It was something that I hope we can learn from and move on.”
Rocky Mount Academy
The Eagles remain a work in progress, and as has been the case in past seasons, offense isn’t a problem.
Rocky Mount Academy’s 54-34 loss Friday to Southampton (Va.) Academy showed that the team has a capable backfield led by Adam Bayless (172 yards), Linwood Jones (86 yards) and, at times, Jacob Hunter.
RMA’s defense struggled mightily, and first-year coach B.W. Holt joked that he is still getting used to the big plays that the 8-man game offers.
With that said, he felt the Eagles (0-2) left some points on the scoreboard against the Raiders.
“We have to keep coming back,” Holt said. “We could have gotten to 48 points easily.”