Aces fall in East Regional final w/Video
Tarboro 50 John A. Holmes 7
By Malcolm Shields
Sunday, December 3, 2017
TARBORO — From the first play of the game, it was apparent that the John A. Holmes football team was at a size and depth disadvantage against Tarboro.
Combined with five turnovers and uncharacteristic mistakes, the Aces fell to Tarboro 50-7 in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1AA East Regional final at Tarboro High School on Friday night.
Tarboro, the region’s No. 1 seed, advances to the 1AA state championship game on Dec. 9 at Carter-Finley Stadium on the campus of North Carolina State University.
The Vikings will face the 1AA West Regional champion Mount Airy.
Third-year John A. Holmes head football coach Paul Hoggard said that he told his team leading up to Friday’s contest that the team needed to play close to a perfect game against the undefeated Vikings.
“We definitely didn’t do that,” Hoggard said after the game. “We got ourselves in a pretty deep hole in the first half. They are too good of a team. You are not going to beat a half-decent team with five turnovers, not alone a great team like they are.”
All five of Edenton’s turnovers were on fumbles with three occurring in the first half.
Tarboro (14-0) took the opening kickoff and capped the drive on a run off the left side of the line by Clifton Joyner.
The junior running back ran untouched for 45-yards into the end zone to put Tarboro up 7-0.
No. 2 seed Edenton (12-2) missed on an opportunity to tie the game.
Following the Vikings’ first score, on third and long, Aces quarterback Mitjonta Stanley just missed a wide-open Jshon Bryant on a pass down the Tarboro sideline.
Even with the early score, the Edenton defense held its own the remainder of the quarter.
The Aces forced a punt on Tarboro’s second possession.
On Tarboro’s third possession, the Vikings had the ball at the Edenton 12-yard line on fourth and short.
A group of Aces defenders met Tarboro junior running back Jaquez Edge in the backfield to force a turnover on downs.
As the contest evolved, Tarboro ran the ball to its left to take advantage of the right side of the Edenton defense.
“On film, it wasn’t as obvious as it quickly became [on Friday night],” Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock said. “We started hammering the left-hand side a little bit more.”
Tarboro scored 21 points in the second quarter, but the biggest score came on a 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Tarboro’s Ja’viyes Massenburg.
The defensive end, listed at 6-foot-2, slapped an Edenton pitch attempt out of the air, recovered the fumble and took it into the end zone to put the Vikings up 21-0 with six minutes, 57 seconds to go in the second quarter.
“He had the quarterback a lot,” Craddock said of Massenburg. “He would stick that arm out there and twice he knocked it down.”
Hoggard noted that from the Edenton prospective it was a lack of execution on the pitch play.
Offensively, the Aces were not consistent for much of the contest.
Hoggard noted that any time Edenton got something started offensively, they would make a mistake.
It would either be a turnover, a missed assignment or a penalty.
“Just didn’t play well,” Hoggard said.
Edenton struggled to hit the big run on its signature dive run up the middle of the line.
“That triple option is tough,” Craddock said of the Edenton offense. “Coach Hoggard does it better than anybody. That dive was absolutely slicing people.”
The Tarboro coach added that the Aces do a good job of creating a running lane for the dive play.
“If we didn’t take that away, we were going to have to outscore them,” Craddock said.
The Tarboro defense was successful at limiting the amount of big runs Edenton earned on the dive.
Down 36-0 in the third, the Aces ended the Tarboro shutout bid on a Dequantae Spruill 16-yard touchdown run with 2:04 left in the quarter.
Spruill, a senior, finished with 61 yards on 10 carries.
Stanley finished with 66 rushing yards to go with 62 passing yards.
Nakevin Hill had three catches for 49 yards and Kel Boston had a team-high 11 tackles.
Running back Keimon Bailey, a senior, led the Aces with 22 carries for 126 yards.
“They are a good team,” Bailey said of Tarboro.
The frustration boiled over for Edenton in the second half as the team was tagged with personal foul penalties along with an altercation on the Edenton sideline.
“They’ve had success all year,” Hoggard said. “When you know it’s the end and you’re getting beat pretty bad… They are teenagers, they make mistakes.”
The contest was the final game for 17 seniors on the team.
Bailey was one in a group of sophomores that earned varsity time when Hoggard took over the John A. Holmes football program prior to the 2015 season.
The running back left his mark on the program with back-to-back 2,000-plus yard seasons.
Last fall, Bailey set the program rushing record with 2,853 yards.
Bailey, the 2016 Daily Advance Area Player of the Year, concludes his senior campaign with 2,470 yards with 38 rushing touchdowns.
In three varsity seasons, Bailey accumulated over 6,000 rushing yards with over 80 touchdowns on the ground.
Bailey said the moment that stood out to him in his career was going to the 2A state championship game last season.
Xavius Capehart is also part of the senior class as the linebacker finished with 10 tackles, while senior defensive lineman Tim White blocked a Tarboro punt late in the second quarter.
Hoggard said the senior class is tremendous.
It is a group that won a 2A East Regional championship last fall to go with conference titles in 2016 and 2017.
“Great kids. Eight of them have been starting for three years,” Hoggard said. “They have a pretty good record over three years. [I’m] proud to be their coach.”