The postseason begins tonight with the first round of the state playoffs and five of six area teams are participating. While strong participation is good news, four will be on the road with one facing the No. 1 ranked team in the state. Only Northeastern will be playing at home.
No. 8 Topsail (4-7) at No.1 Northeastern (9-2)
The Eagles topped off their second conference championship in three seasons with a top seed in the East Region. But regular-season success has not always translated into postseason wins for Northeastern, which is just 2-5 in the playoffs in Antonio Moore’s coaching era and has suffered first-round defeats in seven of the past nine years.
“We do talk about us being
a little older, a little wiser and not making the same mistakes that we made in the beginning of the season and last year and the year before that (in the playoffs),” Moore said. “We’re taking it one game at a time, one play at time. Just trying to do what we do best. We won’t change anything as this point.”
While the Eagles should be heavy favorites to advance, they need to guard against looking ahead to the next round and a possible rematch with Southwest Edgecombe, a team the Eagles lost to 40-14 in the season’s first game.
“It’s always hard to not look ahead, but we’re committed to focus on Topsail,” Moore said.
Will’s pick: Northeastern 45, Topsail 10. The Eagles continue their roll.
No. 7 Pasquotank (6-5) at No. 2 Tarboro (11-0)
The Panthers face one of the area’s toughest challenges when the meet Tarboro, the defending 2A state champions and 2008 state runners-up.
“You have to play them the way they fall,” Pasquotank coach Hancel Phipps said. “Yes, Tarboro is the No. 1 team in the state and defending champions, but we saw things on the film that we think we can exploit about them. We feel like with what we do, if we can get into the right kind of game, we can play with anybody.”
Pasquotank, which is 0-6 all-time in the postseason, is coming off a last-second 41-38 win over Carrboro last week that put an end to a three-game losing streak.
“Anytime you can get a win, it’s always a big thing when you are going into the playoffs,” Phipps said. “We definitely didn’t want to go in on a four-game losing streak or I think it would have been really hard to get our kids up. After the excitement of the win, yeah, they know Tarboro is good and it’s going to take a great game.”
Will’s pick: Tarboro 47, Pasquotank 14. Tarboro is undefeated and top ranked for a reason.
No. 5 Perquimans (5-6) at No. 4 Riverside (9-2)
The Pirates nearly knocked off the Knights five weeks ago, losing 20-14 at home. Now they get another crack at their Four Rivers Conference mates in the playoffs.
“We feel really good about it,” Perquimans coach T.J. Worrell said. “We’ve been working really hard on correcting some of the things we were doing at that point in the year — finishing in the scoring area, finishing drives and defend a little better. Those are the types of things we’re doing better.”
Perquimans is 3-4 in the playoffs under Worrell and is feeling confident despite entering the playoffs with losses in four of their last five games.
“We felt really good coming out of the Camden game (a 44-36 win on Oct. 29), obviously we made some mistakes defensively giving up 44 points (to Plymouth last week),” Worrell said. “We’re really confident in our offense, we felt really good about what was going on (against Plymouth). We were able to accomplish some things, even though it didn’t turn out in a positive way on the scoreboard.”
Will’s pick: Riverside 30, Perquimans 13. Riverside seems to be over its midseason struggles.
No. 7 Camden (4-7) at No. 2 Gates (9-2)
The Bruins, who missed the playoffs in 2009, have a string of five straight wins in the first round. Facing Gates will put that streak to the test.
“They’re big up front and they can run a power set or they can spread it out and throw the ball,” Camden coach Scott Jones said. “Because of their style of offensive play, they can 4- or 5-yards you to death and you can’t get your hands on the ball. We figure we have to score a lot of points to beat them.”
The Bruins proved they could be a factor with a midseason win over Riverside, then ranked in the top 10 in the state, but closed the season with three straight losses. In the past their record would have set the Bruins up for a long road trip, but with the new pod brackets, Camden will have one of its shortest playoff trips in recent years.
“The deal with the pod system worked out very good for us,” Jones said. “I don’t remember having to travel to a playoff game was anywhere near as close as what we’re going. ”
Will’s pick: Gates 40, Camden 20. This game could be close early on, but the Red Barons will pull away late.
No. 8 Currituck (3-8) at No. 1 Havelock (8-3)
A three-win season may not seem like much, but the Knights have won more games this season than in the last two combined.
Currituck will face a Rams team than won the rugged Coastal Conference, earning the region’s top seed. Havelock boasts a top passing attack, led by junior quarterback Garrett Crowe who has thrown for 2,484 yards and 28 touchdowns.
“Defense will be the challenge tonight,” Currituck coach Johnny Wheeler said. “We’re going to have to adjust to their multiple formations and play physical. We have to get some three-and-outs, then control the ball.”
Will’s pick: Havelock 44, Currituck 16. The Knights should be able to score, but not enough to slow the Rams.
Will’s record: Last Week 4-1. Overall 44-9.
In other games involving teams with area ties, Southern Wayne (5-6) travels to Hertford (8-3) in a 3A East match-up, First Flight (7-3) is at South Lenoir (6-5) in the 2A East and in the 1A East Manteo (9-2) hosts Mattamuskeet (2-7), Columbia (6-4) is at Southside (8-3) and Northside (3-8) travels to Plymouth (10-1).