Southern, Webb open seasons at home
Last season, the four area high school varsity football teams won a combined 13 of 43 games. Only one team, Southern Vance, made the state playoffs.
The 2013 campaign, highlighted by conference realignment, begins Friday. Southern is back in the 2-A Northern Carolina Conference with Warren County while Northern Vance and J.F. Webb are competing in the 3-A Big Eight Conference.
Three area head coaches are beginning their second seasons while J.F. Webb has a new man on the job.
Southern and Webb are each at home Friday. Northern Vance is on the road and Warren County begins play next week at home against the Vikings.
Each game Friday is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m.
Northeastern at Southern Vance
Southern’s debut game back at the 2-A level comes against 2-A Northeastern Conference power Northeastern of Elizabeth City.
The Eagles haven’t missed out on the state playoffs this century, posting double-digit wins in six of the last eight seasons.
Northeastern finished 11-3 in 2012, falling to Tarboro in the third round of the 2-A state playoffs. The Eagles were the 2-AA runner-up in 2010.
“It’s a real big test,” said Raiders’ coach Lewis Young. “We know we probably will not be the favorite to win. They’re a really explosive team, really fast, a lot of athletes.”
Young said the Eagles return their skill players from last year and boast a handful of Division I prospects.
“Really fast receivers,” said Young. “The quarterback is dangerous, not just passing, but running the ball. Trying to contain them will be tough. On defense, they really just attack. They bring a lot of pressure off the end trying to disrupt the flow of the offense.”
The Raiders aren’t young, but they aren’t the most experienced team either. Some of Young’s seniors are first-year starters including quarterback Ty-Traveon Roberts.
Defense has been Southern’s signature the past few years. Young thinks the Raiders should still be solid on that side of the ball.
“I think we’ll still be pretty tough,” said Young. “We have some new DBs. Our linebacker corps and up front will still be really good. We have to get the secondary up to par.”
Friday’s game marks the first regular season meeting between the schools. The Raiders claimed a playoff win over the Eagles in 2003.
Keys to the game: “Keep them in front of us,” said Young. “Slow the game down some. Time of possession and field position are going to be key.”
Northern Vance at Ravenscroft
Northern Vance’s lone win last season came in Week 1 against Ravenscroft in a 34-19 decision. It was the Vikings’ first win over the Ravens in eight tries.
Head coach Eric Watkins is confident his team can repeat that success.
“I think the kids are prepared,” said Watkins. “I think we have them prepared to battle. Last year was last year, but I think the kids are ready.”
Ravenscroft competes in Division I of the N.C. Independent School Athletic Association. The Ravens were 4-7 in 2012 with one win over a N.C. High School Athletic Association opponent.
“They still have some nice pieces there,” said Watkins. “They still have their big receiver and the defense should be improved.”
Watkins was pleased with the Vikings’ performance in Southern’s Pigskin Jamboree. He said the offensive line has been impressive in the preseason. They’ll block for senior leader Devin Anderson, Tyrrick Bullock and Tamaj Bullock, to name a few of the backs.
Keys to the game: “We just have to play good defense,” said Watkins. “One thing I like about our defense this year is we’re quicker, faster. We’ve got some hitters out there.”
Granville Central at Webb
Webb represents the area’s biggest unknown. The Warriors have a new coach, Tony Midgette, who has installed a new offense.
The option is out. Pro-style is in.
Senior tailback Tobiah Lewis shoulders the load although Midgette said the Warriors’ offense found the end zone through the air just as frequently as on the ground in preseason jamborees at Northampton County and Bartlett Yancey.
Webb has no experienced quarterbacks in its arsenal as senior Beau Smith, a converted receiver, takes over at signal caller.
“He’s been doing great,” said Midgette. “He’s been getting better every day.”
Webb starts the season with three consecutive rivalry games as dates with Person and South Granville follow this week’s game with Granville Central.
“We try to instill in our kids that we can be good,” said Midgette, “but we have to take it one game at a time. We want to start the season 1-0 and keep the spirits high with a tough schedule ahead.”
Granville Central had one win last season and lost 30-6 to Webb. John Hammett’s Panthers, down to 1-A this season, were impressive in the Pigskin Jamboree. Their backfield features former Webb quarterback Corey Evans.
Keys to the game: “We have to win the turnover battle,” said Midgette. “I think we’ve been doing good at that at these scrimmages. The big plays — no 60-yard touchdowns. And keeping our penalties down.”
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