Let the games beginPublished 4:27pm Thursday, August 22, 2013
New season, new look for area teams as the powerhouse known as the Four Rivers Conference has been disbanded. Southside and Northside now find themselves in the Coastal Plains Conference, while Riverside and South Creek claim residence in the Two Rivers Conference and reigning 1-A state champs Plymouth currently reside in the Atlantic Conference.
Despite the new addresses, the Friday night fun will continue and should create some intriguing conference races throughout the year.
The march toward the postseason will begin at home tonight for Southside, Northside, Riverside and South Creek, while Plymouth will begin their title defense on the road.
Here’s a look at the matchups.
North Duplin (0-0) at Southside (0-0) at 7 p.m.
Seahawks first-year coach Jeff Carrow will make his debut tonight against a North Duplin team that finished 7-4 in the Carolina Conference last season.
Southside brings back a handful of players from a team that went 6-7 a year ago and had a heated quarterback competition between junior Donshae Miller and sophomore John Sullivan during the preseason. The competition went down to the wire but Carrow said he decided to go with Miller.
“Donshae Miller will get the nod at quarterback right now just based on his experience,” Carrow said. “He’s played some varsity football before, but I know I have a solid backup in Sullivan.”
Defensively, the Southside returns three starters, which means that a relatively inexperienced defense will be tasked with having to stop the potent North Duplin option game.
Creswell (0-0) at Northside (0-0) at 7 p.m.
The Panthers will begin their 2013 season at home against a familiar foe as it hosts a Creswell team that went 6-6 in the Tideland Conference last year and now resides in the Atlantic Conference.
Northside suffered a setback in the preseason as senior starting guard/middle linebacker Dale Russ endured a leg injury forcing coach Keith Boyd to get into his depth chart early.
“At guard, Manuel Mendoza will take his place and at linebacker we’re looking at Austin Gambriel,” Boyd sad.
With key running backs Noel Howson, Antonio Woods and Rockne Butler back for another year, Boyd said the team will lean on its offense early.
“I feel like offensively we’re kind of right where we want to be,” Boyd said. “I think defensively we’re a little behind right now.”
Plymouth (0-0) at Farmville Central (0-0) at 7:30 p.m.
The Vikings went 15-1 last year to capture a Four Rivers Conference crown and a state championship and will begin their march back to state tonight against a Farmville Central team that finished 2-8 in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference.
Plymouth coach Robert Cody faces a challenge as he must replace his entire starting backfield from a year ago, including his quarterback. However, Cody faced a similar situation after winning the state title in 2007 and said that while is RB unit is a talented one he still has concerns.
“That is the one thing that we don’t know. We got kids in the backfield now that are going to handle the ball and they are all young and haven’t done it too much in varsity competition,” Cody said. “The key for them is to hold on to the ball. We’ve worked hard on that.”
Defensively, Plymouth took a hit as star nose guard William Hollingsworth suffered an ankle injury that is expected to sideline him for the first few games.
Ayden-Grifton (0-0) at Riverside (0-0) at 7:30 p.m.
Once again the Knights will begin their season against Ayden-Grifton and will look to avenge a tough 28-21 loss to the Chargers in last year’s opener.
In 2012, Riverside went 6-6 and has since moved from the Four Rivers Conference to the Two Rivers Conference and will resume its rivalry with Ayden-Grifton, who went 9-3 last season in the Carolina Conference.
After losing WDN All-Area first-team quarterback Matt Wisniewski to graduation, the Knights auditioned Clay Wagner and Jeremiah Wilson under center this summer and coach Asim McGill heads into this year planning to platoon both QBs.
McGill said his biggest concern tonight is the play of his special teams.
“The last two years (against Ayden-Grifton) the difference in the game has been special teams,” McGill said. “We can’t afford to let up touchdowns on special teams.”
Perquimans (0-0) at South Creek (0-0) at 7 p.m.
The good news for South Creek is that it’s playing the only team it beat during last year’s 1-10 campaign tonight at home. The bad news is that the Cougars will have to try and do it again without starting QB Brandon Battle, who hurt his wrist during a scrimmage and will be out for a few weeks.
Taking his place will be sophomore Aaron Little, who like Battle is a talented athlete.
“(Little) is doing well there. He can throw the ball incredibly well. He has a great arm,” South Creek coach Jeremy Jones said. “The big thing is Friday night jitters. It will be his first time in there and we’re going to try to make him comfortable and give him some easy reads.”
Perquimans went 0-11 last season and has since moved to the Atlantic Conference but Jones said he anticipates a tough matchup.
“We’ve seem them on film and they’re really, really aggressive,” Jones said. “They fly around and I’m sure they remember last year so they will come in with a chip on their shoulder.”