TARBORO – In 2007, Tarboro linebacker Saiid Murphy was a sixth-grader at Pattillo Elementary School.
He likely watched plenty of Vikings’ home games during that season from the bleachers, but on Friday night, he watched near midfield as Southern Nash knelt down, running the final seconds off the clock.
One of the longer home winning streaks in North Carolina history lasted more than six years, but the Firebirds handed Tarboro its first home loss since Sept. 21, 2007 in a 24-23 final.
“It’ll be remembered for years to come,” Murphy said of the streak. “... At small-town Tarboro, that’s still great.”
Tarboro’s fans filed out of the stadium, while Southern Nash’s crowd remained to cheer.
It was a scene that many had not seen for quite some time, especially at Tarboro (4-2), which also lost two nonconference games for the first time since 2007.
“These guys expect to win,” Craddock said. “Any loss you have is tough. It doesn’t matter to us.”
It was hard to find blame, although Murphy and starting running back Radja Bobbitt, who ran for a team-high 65 yards and scored all three touchdowns, tried to take it.
Tarboro averaged more than 10 yards per play in the first half, and it held a 15-14 halftime lead despite having the ball for less than five minutes in the first half.
In the post-game huddle, Craddock reminded his team not to hide from the demoralizing feeling.
Instead, he suggested they embrace it because it signifies all the work the Vikings put in before the game.
“When you put all the time in it, you expect to come out here and play well, and you expect to win,” Craddock said. “When you come up short, it’s tough.”
Tarboro came up short, because they were unable to match Southern Nash in the trenches.
The Firebirds (6-0) knew all about Tarboro’s streak coming into Friday night.
In fact, safety Kendall Parker said the year was preached all week.
“Now, it’s 2013,” he said.
“Tarboro’s a great program,” Southern Nash coach Brian Foster said. “They haven’t lost here in a while, and they played that way (Friday).”
Tarboro was unable to match the Firebirds when it needed to the most: To keep the streak alive.
On the first drive of the second half, Tarboro went from second-and-12 to fourth-and-long after a fumuble and a false start.
On the next drive, Bobbitt fumbled – a turnover that Southern Nash eventually turned into points.
“I take full responsibility for this loss (Friday),” Bobbit said, visibly shaken. “My team was counting on me, I just dropped the ball.”
Bobbitt scored on Tarboro’s next drive to put the Vikings ahead, but on Southern Nash’s final drive, the Vikings couldn’t record a stop.
“It’s tough when you know what they are going to run and how they’re going to run it and you can’t stop it,” said Murphy, who finished with 14 tackles. “It’s just not Tarboro football. We have to get better. We knew every single play that they were going to run. They got big on big, and we couldn’t stop it.”
The Firebirds drove the length of the field for the game-winning score, converting five times on third down in the process and snapping the streak.
“If it’s worth talking about, then it means we’ve strung together a lot of wins on the field,” Craddock said of the streak. “... To come up a point short is disappointing. You don’t really think of a streak when you’re in the middle of the season.
“If you look back on it, it’s obviously impressive.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com