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Aces head to Tarboro for 1AA east final rematch

Vikings beat Edenton 50-7 last season

#16 running for TD 3rd quarter

John A. Holmes' Mitjonta Stanley (with ball) has fueled the Aces' offense during the 2018 state playoffs.

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By David Gough
Sports Writer

Friday, December 7, 2018

With any new season comes change for high school football teams.

Players graduate, players come up and other players take on a larger role than they’ve had in the past. That certainly doesn’t exclude John A. Holmes, who has a new starting running back with some new faces on defense to name just a couple changes.

Still, from one year to the next, the results are much of the same.

For the second year in a row, a one-loss Aces team, whose only loss is to Northeastern, heads to Tarboro to face an undefeated Vikings team in the NCHSAA 1AA East Regional Final.

John A. Holmes hopes it goes a bit differently this time as Tarboro cruised to a 50-7 win and won the state championship the next week.

“(Tarboro was) very physical. They were good on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” John A. Holmes coach Paul Hoggard said. “And we didn’t play very well, turned the ball over a bunch, didn’t play well in any phase of the game.”

The Aces turned the ball over five times in last year’s game as a 7-0 deficit after the first quarter quickly turned into a 28-0 disadvantage by halftime.

Tarboro exclusively used the ground in last year’s game as every yard gained was on a carry. The Vikings rushed for 336 yards in the game and the Aces will see their two leading rushers from last year’s regional final again tonight.

As juniors, Clifton Joyner ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns, while Jaquez Edge rushed for 94 yards and a score.

This year, those two are a part of four different senior Vikings to rush for at least 738 yards this season. Keon Caudle leads the four with 855 yards on the ground as Tarboro’s rushing attack has been pretty balanced this season.

But the same can be said about the success of John A. Holmes’ rushing attack this year. While not as balanced, junior Mitjonta Stanley has rushed for 2,876 yards as senior Nakevin Hill has 647 yards and quarterback Kentreaz Coston has rushed for 583.

As a whole, the Aces have rushed for 4,892 yards on the year, more than 500 yards than the Vikings this season. They also have thrown a little more with 742 passing yards from Coston as Tarboro senior Kimani McDaniels has thrown for 524.

Led by coach Jeff Craddock, Tarboro is in the midst of 28 straight wins dating back to last season’s opener, winning the Coastal Plains conference championship for a second straight season.

The Vikings’ closest margin of victory is a 35-14 win over SouthWest Edgcombe, who lost in the third round of this year’s 2AA state playoffs.

“You don’t go two years in a row without losing a game and not being very good, so they got a very good team,” Hoggard said of Tarboro. “They’re very well coached and it’ll be a great challenge for us.”

For John A. Holmes, it is the third year in a row it has reached a regional final. The Aces won the 2A east in 2016 before falling to Reidsville in the state championship and moving to the 1A level where it met the Vikings last season.

Although Tarboro presents a big challenge for Edenton once again, last year’s loss to them isn’t something that’s going to discourage the Aces going into tonight.

While Edenton has mostly put away its opponents easily this year, it still had to fight to win in the last minute in Currituck and overcome a slow start against Riverside last week before blowing them out.

“Facing adversity and being able to come through it, that has to give you some confidence,” Hoggard said “There’ll be adversity in this game like there is in any game.

“We’re just preparing for this game, prepare for what we see on film and we’ll do what we do.”

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