PREGAME CHATTER: For anyone that hasn’t heard or noticed, the Gryphons have a new stadium, a new high school and a new coach. Rocky Mount High has been the talk of the Twin Counties ever since ground was broken on the new multi-million dollar facility. Now, it’s finally time to cut the ribbon and pull back the doors. Expect the football stadium to be packed and the parking lot to be even fuller. It’s a new era for Gryphons football.
WHAT IT MEANS: This is the first step in a different direction for Rocky Mount High. With everything shiny and new, the Gryphons need to start right. Luckily, they’ll have a great chance to do that. The Gryphons return talented running back Mason Hines, who has drawn interest from multiple colleges.
KEY MATCHUP: Rocky Mount High’s defense vs. Bunn’s offense. Last year, the Gryphons started off their season perfectly with a 30-0 victory against Bunn. That’s zero points for a defense that allowed at least two scores in every other game. There was a fair amount of turnover on the defensive side of the ball, but another shutout would be the perfect way to open the new Rocky Mount High.
PREGAME CHATTER: Two things came out of the season-opener between these squads in 2011. For one, Nash Central set the tone for a successful campaign when they pulled off the upset of Tarboro, ending the Vikings’ 23-game winning streak. Secondly, it erased the aura of Tarboro’s invincibility, as the Vikings showed they weren’t a made-for-title product.
Tarboro eventually went on to win a third consecutive 2-A state title, but Nash Central showed that the champs weren’t unbeatable. Tonight, both the Bulldogs and Vikings take the field with talent that could grow into strong teams with more game experience.
WHAT IT MEANS: Who can say they’ve knocked off Tarboro twice in the past two seasons? Not many teams earn the chance, and the Bulldogs will take the first shot tonight.
KEY MATCHUP: Tarboro’s defensive ends vs. Nash Central offensive line. Everyone knows what heavily-recruited Division I prospect Tyquan Lewis can do on one end, but this season he is joined by transfer Travonne Marshall, who will line up on the other side. The Bulldogs have only one returning offensive lineman, Welsey Earp, who has moved from guard to tackle.
PREGAME CHATTER: In a sign of things to come, Northern Nash couldn’t move the ball against Wilson Beddingfield in 2011, opening its season with a 14-3 home loss. The Knights struggled offensively the rest of the season, their loss to the Bruins was only the first of many frustrating Fridays. A new year and a new attitude means a new chance for the Knights to start with a victory.
WHAT IT MEANS: Northern Nash is talented but undeniably young and void of varsity experience at many spots. Confidence allows young squads to mature quickly, and the greatest confidence booster is winning.
KEY MATCHUP: Northern Nash quarterback Marquez Farmer vs. Beddingfield’s containment. If Farmer’s athleticism wasn’t enough trouble, his understanding of the defense’s intentions make the Knights’ veer potent. With more of a stable behind him this season, Farmer will make the Bruins pay should they not be disciplined in their gap assignments.
PREGAME CHATTER: The game dubbed the “Sweet Potato Bowl” wasn’t sweet at all to SouthWest Edgecombe last season. Cougars coach Raymond Cobb said he came away from the 43-0 defeat unsure if his team would win a game in 2011. SouthWest Edgecombe rebounded, but it wasn’t until conference play began. Tonight, the Cougars will play host to a Southern Nash squad that will introduce new players at unfamiliar positions, most notably an entire backfield that rushed for more than 3,000 yards in 2011.
WHAT IT MEANS: Both teams have picked formidable opponents to open the season, and a win certainly will be a momentum booster for either.
KEY MATCHUP: SouthWest Edgecombe’s offensive line vs. Southern Nash’s defensive line. The old battle of the trenches will come down to an experienced Cougars front, which could pave some big lanes for a quick and talented three-headed backfield.
PREGAME CHATTER: Coach Keith Parisher’s tenure begins tonight in Leggett, where the Warriors take on perhaps the least difficult opponent of their nonconference schedule. North Edgecombe defeated South Creek, 56-6, last season. Tonight’s contest should give North Edgecombe a chance to play multiple players on both sides of the ball.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Warriors play SouthWest Edgecombe and Tarboro during the next three weeks, and considering they haven’t fared well against their intra-county foes of late, a win tonight is paramount for confidence.
KEY MATCHUP: North Edgecombe’s backfield against South Creek defense. With leading rusher Darius Phillips out because of a foot injury, a number of Warriors rushers will have ample opportunity tonight to move up the depth chart.
PREGAME CHATTER: It’s game one of a brand-new program. This is a clean slate for the Jaguars and should be seen as such. Rocky Mount Prep has talent, but it is very young talent. Not only that, but the Jaguars open their season with probably the toughest opponent of the year.
WHAT IT MEANS: To be honest, not much – unless the Jaguars pull off the upset. Not many people expect Rocky Mount Prep to contend tonight, but a shocking upset would be quite a way to start a new program.
KEY MATCHUP: Rocky Mount Prep against itself. When a team has never taken a varsity snap, it’s tough to exploit a weakness or find a strength. If the Jaguars believe in themselves, they’ll be fine. They have no reason not to believe in themselves.
– Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite and Nick Piotrowicz