Vikings’ quest continuesPublished 1:27pm Thursday, November 22, 2012
One week after battling a Manteo team that everybody knew Plymouth would have to face sooner or later in the postseason, the Vikings will turn around and host a Princeton team that nobody expected to make it past the first round.
Tonight, top-seeded Plymouth (13-0, Four Rivers) will host an eighth-seeded Cinderella Bulldogs (5-8) team that squeaked into the playoffs with a 2-8 record and has remarkably won three straight games to make it into the NCHSAA East Regional round of the playoffs.
Tonight’s classic David versus Goliath matchup takes place at 7:30 p.m. at Foster Field, with the winner advancing to the state championship game at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium to face the winner of the Albemarle-Murphy matchup.
In order to get to this point, Plymouth had to first battle its arch nemesis Manteo in the third round of the playoffs. The Vikings were able to get past the rival Redskins 34-14 thanks to a huge effort by Carl McCray, who helped devise the game plan and then executed it to perfection by rushing for 317 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.
With the two teams annually playing each other twice a year, there are very few secrets between Manteo and Plymouth. It was with that in mind that Vikings coach Robert Cody looked for ways to tweak a lead play for McCray, the fullback.
After tinkering with a few designs in practice, McCray came up with the key blocking scheme that allowed him to gain over 200 yards and three touchdowns on the four times they ran the play.
“On Wednesday afternoon we tried some unbalanced stuff with the lead play and we ran it a couple of times in practice against our JV team and they were coming in and knocking the heck out of Carl,” Cody said. “So Carl gave a few suggestions on how to block it and my guard and tackle were like, ‘Yea, Coach that will work.’
“The first time we called the play (against Manteo) he walked right into the end zone. Later on in the game we had the ball on our own 10 and I thought, ‘I’m gonna be a superstar coach and call for three-wide and through it right down the pipe … but we jumped off sides.
“Then I looked at my play chart, which is filled with the only five plays I got, so I said, ‘Heck, let’s run that play and see if it works.’ They hand it off and he doesn’t get touched for 95 yards. … That one little thing we did made a big difference. It will never work again, but it doesn’t have to.”
McCray would finish the night with 310 yards on 17 attempts and he will look to bring the same kind of effort tonight when the Vikings take on a Princeton team whose spread offense is a complete contrast to Cody’s wing-T.
Under first-year coach Derrick Minor, the Bulldogs, who finished in second-to-last place in the Carolina Conference, struggled to adjust to their new schemes early in the season as they dropped their first four games before edging past East Carteret 16-15 for their first win.
Despite the slow start, Minor could see the promise in his team.
“We lost four out of our first five games by about less than a touchdown,” Minor said. “Everybody looks at us and says, ‘Wow, your 2-8 (at the start of the playoffs), but we were playing better ball than our record shows.”
The turning point in Princeton’s season was when it clashed with rival Rosewood in the regular season finale. The Bulldogs lost that game 43-41 in triple overtime, but gained the much-needed confidence that has fueled their sensational playoff run.
“You preach all year to believe, and the kids never once doubted. They always believed they had the potential in them,” Minor said. “We went into the final game of the regular season against our rival Rosewood and we woke up in the fourth quarter. We scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Once that spark it hit it was like the light switch went on.
“Our offense, defense and special teams all just started clicking. We went into three overtimes against Rosewood and lost on a two-point conversion. They say sometimes a loss can help you, well this really helped more than we realized. They started to feel like they could come back no matter what the score or situation.”
Though its runs a spread, Princeton employs a good mix of running and pass plays and is led by sophomore running back Johnny Frazier who has rushed for 1,638 yards and 20 TDs this season.
Orchestrating the offense is sophomore QB Michael Wooten, who has passed for 1,062 yards and 20 scores on the year.
The key for the Vikings to slow down the Bulldogs will be to get a lot of disruption from its defensive line, which is led by NG William Hollingsworth who has been phenomenal this season.
“The key to our offense is to try and stay balanced and establish the run and to be able to execute our passing game,” Minor said. “Their defense is very good, their nose guard is probably one of the best that I’ve seen.”
When Princeton looks to pass, it will be challenged by an extremely skilled and athletic Vikings’ secondary that is led by 2011 WDN All-Area first team selection Kendrick Pitt and features three players over 6-feet tall.
“We got corners, Kendick Pitt (6-2, 190) and Malik Webb (6-2, 175), plus we got safety Adrian Moore (6-2, 170) and they are some good athletes,” Cody said. “They are fast and athletic and will be put to the test (tonight).
If the Vikings can pass that test, they will head to the state title game for the first time sine thier state championship-winning run in 2007.