‘It’s all who wants it’ in Northern-Southern clash

Sep. 11, 2013 @ 10:52 PM

It won’t affect the conference standings this season, but that shouldn’t lessen the intensity in Friday’s game between Northern Vance and Southern Vance.

Northern is looking to snap a four-game losing skid in the series when the rivals square off in Raider Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

Warren County is at home against a Northern Nash team that could be better than its record indicates.

J.F. Webb dropped to 1-2 last week. The Warriors do not play this week and return to action Sept. 20 at Pasquotank.

Northern Vance (0-3) at Southern Vance (1-1)

Northern and Southern haven’t met this early in a season since 2008 — the last time the Vikings registered a win in the series.

The Vikings and Raiders are no longer league rivals, but the Optimist Bowl trophy is still at stake.

“It’s a lot different coming early in the year, but I think the intensity is still going to be the same,” said Southern head coach Lewis Young. “For this kind of game, you don’t have to say a lot. They’re going to be ready.”

Northern head coach Eric Watkins, who coached many of the current Raiders at Henderson Middle School, called it a “community game.”

“Our kids are still up for it,” said Watkins. “It’s important to them and I’m pretty sure it’s important to the kids at Southern too.”

Southern leads the all-time series 12-11 and has won nine of the last 10 meetings.

But the last two meetings have been decided by a combined seven points with the Raiders pulling out a 6-0, double-overtime victory last season at Northern.

“It’s all who wants it,” said Watkins. “And my kids, this week, they’ve been showing me they want it. I’ve seen more focus this week than I have all year. I guess they really want this game. And I think this game can lift these kids back to what they really can accomplish.”

Northern lost 50-28 last week to Franklinton despite playing the Red Rams close in the first half.

Southern didn’t play last week and defeated Cedar Ridge 24-19 in Week 2.

Young described his team as “pretty healthy,” although wide receiver DeAndre Jefferson is still out with an injury as is Northern running back/defensive back Tyrrick Bullock.

Shifty running back Qualik Shearin is emerging as a dangerous weapon for Southern and Young likes what he sees from junior linebacker Sheldon Smith, who had 20 tackles against Cedar Ridge.

A pair of sophomores have been impressing Watkins. Tamaj Bullock has been moving the chains at running back and quarterback Kris Haywood had a good game against Franklinton despite playing under the weather.

Young and Watkins each think the game will be won or lost in the trenches.

“I think whichever offense or defensive line controls the game is probably going to win the game,” said Young.

“Any football game is going to be linemen lead the way,” added Watkins. “so whoever’s linemen control it.”

Northern Nash (0-3) at Warren County (1-1)

Warren County head coach John Ward said Northern Nash will be the biggest school the Eagles face this season and probably the biggest physically.

The Knights enter Friday’s contest with losses to Corinth Holders (2-1), Northeastern (3-0) and Tarboro (2-1).

“They’re a lot better than their record speaks certainly,” said Ward. “And bigger and faster than their record speaks.”

Northern Nash lost 21-7 last week to perennial state power Tarboro, now down in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A classification.

“When you play Tarboro as close as they did, you don’t have to make apologies to anyone I don’t think,” said Ward. “They played them every bit as close as we played Harrells.”

Warren County lost 26-14 to unbeaten Harrells Christian last week. The Eagles didn’t turn the ball over and had only two penalties.

“We could have won that game,” said Ward. “Not having any turnovers is a big, big deal.”

A bigger deal would be improving to 2-1 with 1-A opponents Northwest Halifax and Weldon next, respectively, on the Eagles’ schedule.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.