The three time defending 2-A state champion Tarboro Vikings earned their fifth consecutive trip back to the NCHSAA 2-A state championship game by winning their fifth straight Eastern Regional championship. The Vikings blew out the South Columbus Stallions 46-0 Friday night and remain undefeated. The Vikings now have a 19 game playoff winning streak in tact and have won 22 consecutive games dating back to last season. Tarboro will now face the No.1 seeded team out of the West bracket, East Lincoln who is also undefeated. The championship game will be played Saturday at Wake Forest University at 11 a.m.
"It is special to know we are going back to play for another championship," Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock. "It means the lord has blessed this team and town once again. It is just awesome because my coaches do a great job of getting these guys ready for every game. I just don't want anyone taking these things for granted because it is a lot of hard work involved in getting to this point of the season."
Craddock was pleased with the preparation his team had during the week to get ready. He said his players put in a lot of hard work and that they are a special group of kids.
The Vikings defense was phenomenal the entire game, giving up only 168 total yards and completely shut down the Stallions passing attack. Tarboro also had three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Coming into the game Craddock had concerns about the Stallions big 6-foot-7 quarterback Pharoah McKever and the running backs for the Stallions, because they had the athletic ability and speed to change the momentum of the game. Craddock and his coaching staff had worked all week on stopping the Wing-T offense and they preached about not giving up the big plays. His Vikings responded and shut down the Stallions.
"This is the best game we have played defensively all season," Craddock said. "We stepped up and made play after play. We executed our game plan and did it well. This is just the best game we have played in really long time."
The defensive performance is what Craddock had been expecting from his team all season and finally the last four weeks they have stepped up the challenge and answered for the coaching staff.
Senior Travonne Marshall continued to play superb defense alongside his fellow teammates. He had an interception in the game, which was his fourth in the last three games and senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis had four sacks in less then three full quarters of action. Aaron Moore and Rayshawn Battle also had interceptions in the game.
On the offensive side of the ball, senior Quentin Roberson was the leader for the Vikings. He gained 245 yards on just 16 carries and scored three TDs. This was Roberson's second straight game with over 200 yards. He rushed for 206 yards last week and has scored six TDs in the those two games. Junior running back Radja Bobbitt also chipped in 68 yards on 16 carries and scored two times.
"Quentin and Radja just run hard for us every week," Craddock said. "They both made some key runs for us."
Tarboro got things going on their first possession. Starting at their own 30-yard line, they put a 13 play drive together that was capped off by a Marshall 1-yard TD run. Bobbitt added the two-point conversion to give the Vikings an 8-0 lead.
South Columbus started their third series of the game from their own 23-yard line. On the first play of the series McKever scrambled out of the pocket and gained 10 yards, but the ball came loose and Vikings defensive back Jarrod Bennett recovered it. The Vikings were in excellent field position and began the ensuing drive with 11:02 left before halftime and the drive began from the Stallions' 33-yard line. It took the Vikings six plays to cap the drive off with a touchdown. After a 12-yard run by Roberson and two back to back runs by Bobbitt the Vikings had a first and goal situation from the 10-yard line. Three plays later Bobbitt punched it in from 2 yards out, but the two-point conversion failed and the Vikings had a 14-0 lead with 8:28 left before halftime.
On the ensuing Stallions possession, they were facing a third and 10 from the Vikings' 32-yard line. McKever dropped back to pass and threw it in the middle of the field and Marshall was their to pick off the pass. He returned it back to the Stallions 39-yard line.
With 5:46 left before halftime, the Vikings were in good field position, but the Stallions defense stuffed them and forced Tarboro to punt. Both teams traded punts again before halftime where Tarboro led 14-0.
Tarboro came out with more fire in their eyes in the third quarter and put a seven play drive together that started at their own 30-yard line. The Vikings capped off the drive with a 42-yard TD run by Roberson. He added the two-point conversion and Tarboro led 22-0.
On the ensuing South Columbus drive, McKever dropped back to throw a pass on a second and eight and Moore picked the pass off at the 16-yard line and returned it back 70-yards to the 14-yard line.
On the first play, Bobbitt punched it in again for the Vikings, but the two-point conversion failed and they led 28-0.
Roberson scored two more TDs in the game. The first one was from 23-yards and the next one was on an 83-yard blast in the fourth quarter.
Tarboro also got a TD from Rayshawn Battle after he returned an interception 68-yards.
The Vikings have put some very impressive numbers up on both sides of the ball. On offense, they have gained 874 yards in the last two games and have held their opponents to just 477 yards of total offense. They have five interceptions in the last two games and have recovered three fumbles.
Tarboro had a scary moment in the third quarter, when junior linebacker Saiid Murphy sacked McKever and then fell to the ground and was unresponsive. Marshall yelled for the coaching staff to come check on Murphy. He was later carted off the field on the stretcher and waved both hands high in the air to the crowd to let them know he was alright. Murphy was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons and was evaluated.
Lewis also was taken from the game for precautionary reasons after he took a shot to the helmet in third quarter. He didn't play the rest of the game.
Craddock talked about his team after the game and said it doesn't matter who gets the credit for them because everyone on the team knows that they are one big family and they play as one unit.
"These guys know if we want to get where we need to go then we all need to be on the same page," Craddock said. "Everything started in January when they began preparation for next season in my weightlifting class."
These guys do a great job of accepting that they have to work hard to be where we are now."
The entire coaching staff takes pride in their job in what they do for the Vikings program and that makes Craddock proud to be a Viking.