Hertford County claims Pigskin Jamboree title

Aug. 16, 2014 @ 06:34 PM

For the first time since Hertford County did it in 2011, a team from outside of the area celebrated with Southern Vance’s Pigskin Jamboree trophy.

The Bears took back the crown Saturday, outlasting Warren County in the goal line competition to give the Bears their third Pigskin title in five seasons.

Hertford quarterback J.J. Gatling found the right side of the end zone with his feet before completing a two-point conversion pass to clinch the win in the extra session of the final.

Warren County scored first in overtime on a Dyami Wortham run before it was denied on a two-point conversion run that was initially called good.

“I thought our guys held up very well,” said Warren County head coach John Ward. “It was so close at the end. That two-point conversion could have gone either way.”

The Eagles advanced to the final by defeating Northern Vance and Bluestone High School of Virginia.

Southern Vance was also eliminated by Hertford County in the goal line competition.

Five teams competed for the title although six were scheduled to participate. Northwest Halifax didn’t make the trip.

Hertford County, of the 2-A Northeastern Coastal Conference, lost 25 seniors after advancing to the second round of the state playoffs last season.

“It’s a very young team,” said Terrance Saxby, Hertford’s first-year head coach, “a lot of juniors, a lot of sophomores. They’re hungry and they’re eager. It’s just a good feeling that they’re competing.”

ROOM TO IMPROVE

Ward isn’t one to put much stock in a preseason scrimmage, but was pleased with the progress the Eagles are making.

“For us, we’re always just trying to get better with little things so the big things get better,” said Ward. “We were better today than we were Thursday night in our scrimmage at Hertford County.”

Warren County was down four starters including George Burnette, a returning all-conference lineman.

One of Ward’s biggest concerns was a pair of fumbles including one against Hertford in the goal line competition.

“I was very proud of our kids, but there’s a couple of things we need to clean up,” said Ward. “I think our offensive line played well. Our defense did an outstanding job. They’re very improved. They’re understanding the concepts of our defense. The coaches need to be commended. They did a good job on defense.”

‘FRESHMAN SENSATION’

Zamari Ellis doesn’t look much like a freshman.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound former Henderson Middle School standout had a productive day for Southern, snagging a couple of touchdown grabs.

“Very rarely do we get players with that kind of size coming in as a freshman,” said Southern head coach Lewis Young. “He just looked really good and the main thing, he was blocking well. We’re proud of him.”

Other strong performers noted by Young were Juwan Harris, Maurice Howard, Johnny Hawkins, and Kris Cruz.

“I think we showed we can pass the ball as well as establish the run,” said Young.

BIG PLAYS

It didn’t take Northern Vance long to cross the goal line in the round robin portion of the scrimmage.

Running back Tamaj Bullock scored from about 45 yards out in the Vikings’ first matchup of the morning against Bluestone. Bullock scored on an option pitch from quarterback Kristopher Haywood.

“Kris Haywood optioned to the right side and he turned it and made the effort,” said Watkins, “broke two tackles and made it all the way to the end zone.”

Michael Spinner turned in one of the plays of the day with a one-handed interception against Hertford County and Watkins also highlighted the defensive play of Tyrrick Bullock, LaDarrious Hargrove and Jonas Simmons.

“We did some good things,” said Watkins. “The kids executed pretty well. My line did great. I was impressed with their blocking and my backs hit the holes really good.”

WEEK ONE

The regular season kicks off Friday with each area team in action except Warren County.

Northern is the only area team at home this week as the Vikings play host to Ravenscroft of Raleigh while Southern travels to Elizabeth City Northeastern.

J.F. Webb visits Granville Central and the Eagles open the season next week at Northern.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.