Tough league tests await area football teams
Northern Vance, Southern Vance and J.F. Webb are each searching for their first conference wins Friday while Warren County looks to improve to 2-0 in the 2-A Northern Carolina Conference.
The Vikings, Raiders and Eagles are each at home and have their work cut out for them. Their opponents are a combined 16-5. Northern hosts Cardinal Gibbons, Southern has South Granville and Warren County closes its three-game homestand with Franklinton.
Webb is on the road at winless Cedar Ridge.
Cardinal Gibbons (5-2, 2-1) at Northern Vance (0-7, 0-3)
There’s a new energy in the Northern Vance camp this week. The Vikings hadn’t been closer than 20 points to a team this season until last week’s 28-24 loss at Chapel Hill.
Northern scored all 24 of those in the last 3:22 of the game.
“There’s a lot of belief,” said Vikings’ head coach Eric Watkins. “But that’s something I know they could have been doing all year long.”
Gibbons is coming off a 45-28 loss to Southern Durham, marking the first conference defeat for the Crusaders since 2008.
The Spartans put up 233 rushing yards on Gibbons and limited quarterback Shawn Stankavage to 21-of-40 passing, although he did have 332 yards and two touchdowns.
Stankavage also rushed for 91 yards against Southern Durham.
“He has no problem running,” Watkins said of the Gibbons signal caller. “He’ll get up out of that pocket.”
Watkins said the Spartans also forced a few turnovers against the Crusaders.
Giving up turnovers, and subsequently points, has been a problem for Northern this season as well as not capitalizing on its own takeaways.
“Once we get those turnovers, we have to capitalize on them,” said Watkins. “And giving away turnovers — Mistakes have killed us all year.”
Webb (2-5, 0-3) at Cedar Ridge (0-7, 0-3)
Webb head coach Tony Midgette called Friday’s game at Cedar Ridge a “got-to-win” game if the Warriors want a shot at the 3-A state playoffs. The same goes for the regular season finale at Northern Vance.
“These games are very important when we’re talking about the playoffs,” said Midgette. “Got to have them.”
Cedar Ridge, up from the 2-A ranks this season, started with competitive results against Carrboro, Southern Vance, East Chapel Hill, and Durham Riverside before blowout defeats to three of the Big Eight Conference top dogs: Cardinal Gibbons, Northwood and Orange.
Webb has dropped three straight to start conference play, but has seen plenty of positives in defeats to Chapel Hill, Cardinal Gibbons and Northwood.
Among the positives is Webb’s defensive pass rush, led by tackle Gearl Majors and defensive end Johnathan Harris. Majors will miss Friday’s game with an injury.
That pass rush was key in staying in last week’s game at Northwood (6-1, 2-1) and limiting prolific passer Ti Pinnix.
“We tell our guys to keep the play alive, keep going until they hear a whistle or the ball is gone,” said Midgette.
Running back Tobiah Lewis continues to lead Webb’s offense, entering the contest with 850 rushing yards and first-year senior quarterback Beau Smith has around 700 passing yards.
South Granville (6-1, 1-0) at Southern Vance (2-5, 0-1)
Southern welcomes one of the hottest teams in the state in South Granville, which has won six straight since dropping its season opener to Rocky Mount (6-1).
The Vikings, ranked No. 10 in the latest Associated Press 2-A state high school football poll, enter Friday’s contest averaging 43.4 points and opened 2-A Northern Carolina Conference play last week with a 67-57 win over Franklinton.
“It was a very competitive game,” said Southern head coach Lewis Young. “There were a lot of good plays on special teams. It was just a really good game. Neither team wanted to lose.”
South Granville running back Sean Bowman racked up a school-record 403 yards against the Red Rams, pushing his season tally to 1,528 yards.
“He’s just a big, strong running back,” said Young. “He’s really fast. Of course, their offensive line is just exceptional. Their coach always does a great job of having them prepared to block well.”
The Vikings aren’t one-dimensional. Senior Matt McCutcheon is in his second season in Creedmoor after transferring from Northern Vance. He’s thrown for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
And McCutcheon has been spreading it around. Four of his targets have more than 200 receiving yards. Abraham Barron, a 6-foot-4, 170-pound tight end, leads the team with four touchdown receptions.
Franklinton (5-2, 0-1) at Warren County (5-2, 1-0)
Warren County head coach John Ward preaches to his team that past losses are just that: in the past.
In the last two weeks, Warren County reversed a lack of recent success against Louisburg and Roanoke Rapids. The Eagles lost both games against those opponents decisively last season.
This week, Warren County hopes to exercise some more demons against Franklinton after last season’s 70-8 loss.
“I tell them you don’t have to keep losing to the same teams over and over,” said Ward. “You can actually do something about it.”
The Red Rams’ two losses came to a pair of 6-1 teams in Corinth Holders and South Granville.
After Franklinton, Warren County has away games at Southern Vance, South Granville and Bunn.
“These next four games,” said Ward, “there is no easy win for us.”
Warren County struggled to contain Roanoke Rapids’ quarterback De’Juan Walker in the Eagles’ 54-26 win last week. They’ll get another athletic quarterback this week in Daquan Neal.
“He can run,” said Ward. “At least on tape — as fast or faster than the kid from Roanoke Rapids.”
How the defense responds to Neal could go a long way in determining whether the Eagles can claim their first six-win season since 2005.
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