Northeastern football set to clash with Reidsville in 2A state championship game
Northeastern aims for first state title in modern era
By Malcolm Shields
Friday, December 14, 2018
Months of workouts, weight lifting, game planning, film study and an undefeated campaign all comes down to one game for the Northeastern High School football team.
The Eagles will take on Reidsville in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 2A state championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
Northeastern (14-0) the NCHSAA 2A East Regional champion, is making its first appearance in a state championship game since the 2010 season.
Reidsville (15-0) is no stranger to the state championship stage.
The Rams enter the game as the three-time 2A West Regional champion.
Reidsville won the 2A state championship in 2016 against John A. Holmes and lost in the state title game last year to Wallace-Rose Hill in overtime.
Reidsville claims 16 state championships and three regional titles when the East and West champion did not play.
A win Saturday against the Eagles would give the Rams championship No. 20.
Northeastern is making it fourth appearance in a state championship game and second in the era that pits the champion from the East and the West.
Northeastern claims a state title as the 1969 Eastern champion.
NHS fell to Salisbury in the 2AA state championship game in 2010.
The Eagles are aiming to end their 50th season of football with a state championship.
Northeastern head coach Antonio Moore told The Daily Advance Wednesday at the NCHSAA football championship media day at Carter-Finley Stadium that the team is excited for the matchup.
“Practices have been great,” he said.
The Eagles will face a Reidsville team that has, for the most part, dominated opponents during the 2018 season.
Reidsville averages just under 40 points per game.
What is the trait that stands out about Reidsville?
“Fast, fast and faster,” Moore said. “They are really fast.”
The Rams are led offensively by sophomore quarterback Kyle Pinnix.
He has throw for nearly 1,900 yards with 33 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Travian Canada, a senior, is Reidsville's top running back with just over 1,400 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.
Canada along with Pinnix and Lionel Long are threats to run the football.
Pinnix's top target is fellow sophomore Breon Pass.
He leads Reidsville with nearly 600 receiving yards with 11 receiving touchdowns.
Canada is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield as he is second on the team in receiving yards at nearly 500 yards.
Moore acknowledged that the Rams are similar to Northeastern's conference rival Hertford County on offense.
“When we saw the film, that's the first team that came to my mind. Hertford County,” Moore said. “A spread team. We are a spread team ourselves. It helps us to prepare for them defensively.”
The Eagles defensive line will feature a front that has multiple big and athletic players.
Traveon Freshwater, a senior, is one of the top tacklers for the Eagles on the team.
Linemen Adrian Spellman, a junior, senior Jorell Baum, William Riddick and Quashawn Thomas can get after the quarterback.
Freshwater, Baum and Spellman are NCAA Division I or Football Bowl Subdivision prospects.
Freshwater plans to sign with East Carolina, while Baum is committed to Old Dominion.
Linebacker Robert Ferguson has more than 100 tackles for NHS.
Fellow linebacker Derek Felton is also in the 100-plus tackle club with Ferguson and Freshwater this season.
The defensive secondary features Kinnley Welch, Holden Hodge, Marcell Lewis, Tyquan Mercer and Jerron Hinton.
Longtime Reidsville head coach Jimmy Teague told the Daily Advance Wednesday at media day that the 2018 Rams have been guided by its sophomore class.
“Last year, we had a good number of seniors,” Teague said. “We knew that our young guys are going to have to play well for us to have a chance. Our sophomore group has really played well. We have a good group of seniors to lead, but the sophomore group is the reason we are here because of their development.”
Teague noted that the quarterback position was a question mark to begin the season.
“Kyle was our JV quarterback a year ago,” Teague said. “We knew that he had the potential to be really good.”
Teague said by the Rams' third or fourth game of the season was when they knew what they had in Pinnix.
“The best thing that he has done is manage the game,” Teague said. “We didn't ask him to do anything spectacular to win the game, but mange the game well. That's what he has done for us this year. We would be here without his play either.”
Teague added that Pinnix can run the ball when he needs to and has a good temperament.
On defense, the Rams shut out six teams this season.
Trell Rankin, a senior, leads Reidsville in tackles with nearly 130, while senior Jalen Settle is second with just under 100 on the season.
Settle leads Reidsville in sacks, while Pass leads the secondary in interceptions.
Teague acknowledged that the senior class is motivated by last season's loss in the state title game.
“We've got a good core of seniors that went through all of that last year,” Teague said. “They've been the guys that have been working to get our young guys up to the level of play to have a chance to come back for another one.”
Running backs, Freshwater, Mercer and quarterback Aaron Harris has churned out big plays and yardage for NHS this season.
All three have rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
The Northeastern receiving corps of Lewis, Hodge, Hinton and Jamari Ishman have all made big plays this season.
The NHS offensive line features Rayshawn Stallings, Christopher Manuli, Marqua Veale, Wade Staten, and Jordan Griffin.
“They have a bunch of explosive athletes,” Teague said of Northeastern. “The big thing that we have to try to limit them and not give up big plays because they make big plays all the time. That's the challenge we have defensively.”
What's important for Northeastern to win the title?
“Control the tempo of the game, win the line of scrimmage, and don't turn the ball over,” Moore said. “If we can do that, I think we have a shot.”
Location: Carter-Finley Stadium; 4600 Trinity Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27607
Game time: Saturday, 11 a.m.
Tickets: $15 at the stadium or $15 plus a service fee if ordered online at https://gofan.co/app/school/NC1661
Radio: WKJX 96.7 FM The Block
Online stream: https://wcti12.com/watch or by paid subscription at https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/associations/nchsaa
Follow on Twitter: @Malcolm_Shields, @TDAsportsNENC