The new season will begin tonight for all three Edgecombe County football teams as they embark on their journey in the NCHSAA state playoffs. Two of the three teams will be at home tonight as they try to advance to second round of the playoffs by using the home field advantage.
The three time 2-A state champion Tarboro Vikings will open up the playoffs as the No. 1 overall seed in the East 2-A bracket and will play at home throughout the playoffs if they can continue to win. They open up against a very familiar opponent, the Beddingfield Bruins. Tarboro closed out their undefeated regular season with an impressive 34-0 victory last week against the Bruins after only allowing the Bruins to gain 100 yards of total offense.
The key for Tarboro to be successful tonight is going to be the same game plan they had last week. They are going to have to shut down the Bruins passing attack.
"We are not changing anything tonight," Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock said. "Our game plan worked last time against them and we are going to hopefully execute it again."
Last week, the Vikings defense stepped up in a big way allowing only 14 yards rushing and 86 yards passing. Pass defense has been the down fall for the Vikings this season. Teams have been able to throw the ball against Tarboro, but Craddock has worked tirelessly with his defense to shut down passing attacks which has made the Vikings defense a lot stronger.
During practice Thursday, the Vikings split the time up and worked on rush and pass defense, because Craddock doesn't want to overlook the Bruins run game.
Tarboro's offense has been a revolving cycle this season, because they have a back field full of talent. They didn't miss a beat last week without star running back Quentin Roberson. He was sidelined with a shoulder injury last week and is expected to be back tonight. It didn't matter last week with Roberson out, because junior Radja Bobbitt picked up the slack for the Vikings. He rushed for 160 yards on just 15 carries and scored a TD. Bobbitt is the second leading rusher on the team this year with 977 yards on 126 carries and 11 TDs.
If the Vikings defense can hold to form, then they will be able to route the Bruins and advance to the second round of the playoffs. The key will be for Ohio State commit Tyquan Lewis and linebackers Saiid Murphy and Travonne Marshall to step up and make key plays.
The SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars, who are 5-5 and a No. 13 overall seed in the 2-AA East bracket, will travel to Beulaville to play No. 6 seed East Duplin. East Duplin has played in the 2-A the last three years and have been eliminated by Tarboro each year.
Cougars head coach Raymond Cobb is hoping with the tough schedule his team played this year with them being battle tested will help his team come out victorious tonight.
Cobb knows his defense is set up to defend the Wing-T offense which is what East Duplin runs. For the Cougars to be successful they are going to have to shut down East Duplin's rushing attack.
"Our defense has been really good against the WIng-T teams," Cobb said. "We have a good defensive plan and it has worked for us many of times but we have to execute that plan and tackle well."
The Cougars defense has played well of late with the exception of the Tarboro game and Cobb knows his team will have a good chance of advancing to the next round if they play mistake free football.
Cobb knows that East Duplin is a good team, but his team has had an extra week to get healthy and work on their mistakes.
"We worked on ourselves fundamentally last week and we have a good game plan for them," Cobb said. "I think it is going to come down to how we play defensively and if we can sustain drives offensively."
The offensive part of the game has been a plus for the Cougars this season. They have put numerous drives together where they have held the ball for over six minutes during the drive.
They have been led offensively by senior Gerald Hinton who has exploded in the back field this year for the Cougars. Hinton has gained 1,399 yards on 175 carries and has scored 20 TDs.
SouthWest fullback duo of Devonte Williams and Devontrell Hyman have been a big impact for the Cougars this season as well. They have drug piles of opponents for extra yards throughout the season and have gotten the Cougars numerous first downs on key third down situations when they have needed them. The duo has gained 680 yards and have scored five TDs.
The biggest key for the Cougars tonight will be quarterback Quay Wooten. He has to be able to come out and make the big plays for his team. He is going to have to connect with his receivers on big passing plays.
"Quay has got to have a good game," Cobb said. "We are going to throw a little bit and he has to execute there."
The North Edgecombe Warriors haven't been able to win many games this season, but one of the games they won helped them gain home field advantage during the first round of the playoffs. Their Tar-Roanoke Conference 14-8 win against the Weldon Chargers four weeks ago turned out to be big.
North Edgecombe is the No. 9 seed and will host the No. 11 seeded Chargers tonight in Leggett.
The Warriors and head coach Keith Parisher are going into the playoffs with a limited amount of playoff experience because of the youth on the team. They will also be without starting quarterback Clifton Dickens because of a personal issue.
Parisher is going to turn to Rontarius Graham to lead the Warriors in the playoffs, because Dickens will be sidelined for at least two weeks.
The Warriors will have senior Darius Phillips back, but he will be limited and will only play defense. Parisher doesn't want to chance Phillips injuring his ankle again.
Parisher said they keys to winning tonight will be controlling the football and not fumbling it.
In their first meeting, the Warriors had costly penalties and fumbled the ball several times, but that changed in the second half and they controlled the game and clock.
"We controlled the game in the second half the first time we played them," Parisher said. "We have worked on changing our defenses around and we will play a five or six man front."
That is exactly how the Warriors stopped the Chargers in the second half the first time this season, because Parisher changed up his defensive scheme.