Aces, Vikings meet in east regional final

Winner earns a spot in the 1AA state championship on Dec. 9

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Edenton’s Dequantae Spruill (with ball) will look to have another big game today as the Aces face Tarboro on the road in the east regional final at 7:30 p.m. The senior has rushed for over 800 yards and 14 scores this season.


By Craig Moyer
Sports Writer

Friday, December 1, 2017

TARBORO — Over the past decade, John A. Holmes and Tarboro have proved themselves as a force to be reckoned with every year in the state playoffs.

In 2011, the Vikings came away with a 28-26 win over the Aces in the east regional semifinal on their way to a third-consecutive 2A state championship.

Since 2011, the Vikings have been competing at the 1AA level, while Edenton remained at the 2A level.

Both teams have been a force at their level in the last several years, but both have fallen just short of a state title.

They meet again today at 7:30 p.m. in Tarboro, this time in the 1AA east regional final with a trip to the state championship on the line.

Both teams rely heavily on their ground game to move the ball, but the two sides have very different approaches to their rushing attacks.

John A. Holmes (12-1) relies mostly on the three-pronged rushing attack of quarterback Mitjonta Stanley and running backs Keimon Bailey and Dequantae Spruill.

Bailey has rushed for 2,344 yards and 38 touchdowns on the season, proving himself as one of the most explosive running backs at his level.

Stanley has added 767 yards and Spruill has totaled 819 yards, while both have found the end zone 14 times on the ground this season.

As a team, the Aces run the ball for 356.5 yards per game and has recorded 72 of their 94 touchdowns with the rushing attack.

Tarboro (13-0) uses a running back by committee approach, as no Vikings running back has rushed for 1,000 yards on the season, but the team has totaled 4,642 yards in the ground game.

18 different players have rushed the ball for Tarboro this season, as 15 of those have recorded at least one touchdown and 10 have rushed for at least 100 yards.

Jaquez Edge leads the way for the Vikings with 805 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Deontae Williams has 14 rushing scores and Clifton Joyner adds 11.

Both team’s dominant rushing attacks would not be possible without strong offensive lines, as both units have helped lead their team’s offenses this season.

A key factor in today’s game will be the battle between offensive and defensive lines, as one clear advantage the Vikings have is size up front.

Edenton head coach Paul Hoggard has stressed the importance of the battle in the trenches all season and that is no different this week.

“We have to play very hard and fundamentally sound,” Hoggard said. “What we lack in size, we will have to make up for in technique.”

The head coach stressed discipline for his team in all facets, offensively, defensively and on special teams.

The head coach knows a key part of the Vikings’ game plan is deception, so he is stressing to his defense to stay disciplined and stick to their gaps.

Both team’s have relied on big plays from their special teams units in order to set up their offense or even find the end zone themselves.

Edenton as scored seven touchdowns on special teams, while Tarboro has five, but Hoggard had a simple game plan in order to limit the Vikings’ big plays on special teams.

“They have some dangerous athletes, but we just need to keep the ball out of their hands,” Hoggard said.

The winner of today’s game will earn a spot in the 1AA state championship, which will be held at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh on Dec. 9 against either Mount Airy or Murphy from the west bracket.