Playoff action heats up for remaining area teams|Three schools put season on the line tonight

Published 6:34 am Friday, November 19, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES,, Sports Writer
And then there were three.
After 13 weeks off football there are only three area teams left vying for a state championship as Plymouth, Riverside and Southside will all be in action tonight in the District Round of the NCHSAA playoffs.
In the 1-A classification, Four Rivers Conference co-champions No. 3 Plymouth (11-1) will hit the road to take on a familiar foe in No. 2 Creswell (9-2), while No. 4 Southside will leave Chocowinity to battle Four Rivers Conference rival Manteo (10-2), who split the division crown with the Vikings.
Riverside, who is in the 1-AA division, faces stiff competition as it too must go on the road for its clash with No. 1 Southwest Onlsow (11-1), who won the Coastal Conference title. Here is a look at the matchups:
No. 3 Plymouth (11-1) at No. 2 Creswell (9-2)
Last week the Vikings stormed into the second round of the playoffs as they knocked off a feisty Northside team with a 49-12 victory in the opening round.
Running back Ronnell Blount continued to be a force for Plymouth as he rushed for three touchdowns against the Panthers, while fellow running back Carl McCray tallied 103 yards and one TD.
While the offense put up plenty of points, Plymouth coach Robert Cody was more pleased with his team’s ability to keep points off the board.
“I thought the defense played really well,” Cody said. “We’re getting better every week and (defensive coordinator) Terry Perry does a good job. We didn’t turn the ball over and we tackled really good.”
Tonight, Plymouth will take on back-to-back Tideland Conference Champions Creswell, which is led by one of the area’s top coaches in Wayne Rodgers.
“Creswell is a really fine team, I think it will be a big game here in Washington County and it’s going to be exciting,” Cody said.
The Tigers are led by running back Timmelle Sawyer, who is averaging over 100 rushing yards per game, and quarterback Danvonta Phelps, who has tallied 40 passing yards per contest. Cody said preparing for Creswell is tough because the Tigers like to mix up their offensive formations.
“They have a multiple offense. They run the T some and then they will go pro-I,” Cody said. “They run the ball real well and they have a really good quarterback.”
Creswell’s conference championship and 9-2 record are impressive, but it can be a bit deceiving as the school’s nine wins have come against the same three Tideland Conference opponents: Columbia, Mattamuskeet and Cape Hatteras.
The Tigers have ventured out of conference twice during the regular season and lost both times. Northside topped Creswell 30-20 in the season opener and Southside ran past it 23-6 the next week. Creswell picked up its first non-conference win of the year last Friday when it beat Northampton-West 20-8 in the first round of the playoffs.
Whoever wins tonight will move on to the Sectional Round of the playoffs and face the winner of the Southside-Manteo matchup.
No. 4 Southside (9-3) at No. 1 Manteo (10-2)
The Seahawks busted out of the gate with a near-flawless 40-0 win over No. 5 Columbia last Friday. However, the level of competition will increase mightily tonight when it plays two-time Four Rivers Conference champions Manteo, who rolled over Mattamuskeet 74-0 to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
The Redskins have had a fantastic year and have been the only team that could slay the Goliath that is Plymouth as they forced seven turnovers to pull out a 20-14 win over the Vikings in Week 11.
Southside has already clashed once with its Four Rivers Conference rival and fell 42-22 in Week 7. Seahawks coach DeWayne Kellum said in order to make a run at a state title his team will have to get past some tough teams.
“We knew we were going to have to play Manteo or Plymouth sooner or later so we might as well play ’em now,” Kellum said.
Southside ran the ball with force during its first round win over Columbia as the team racked up 316 rushing yards, with most of them coming by halftime.
Running back Rokeem Miller led the attack with three touchdowns, while Julien Brown ran for two to claw the Wildcats.
Kellum said the key to winning tonight’s game will be to run the ball effectively without turning it over.
“We can’t put the ball on the ground. We put the ball on the ground six times the last time we played them in the first half,” Kellum said. “You just can’t do that against great teams.”
The Bruins run an option offense that features two players with over 700 rushing yards and two more that are in the 400 range.
“They are so well balanced and have so many good players,” Kellum said. “Their backs hit the holes hard, the line blocks great and the quarterback doesn’t go past what he needs to do. He runs the team well.”
On the other side of the ball, Kellum will have to find a way to make his wing-T offense work against a staunch Manteo defensive.
“They have two defensive tackles that really get after it. They have really impressed me,” Kellum said. Their linebackers are really good and they do a lot of stuff with their free safety. It’s a well-coached team.”
The winner of tonight’s game will advance to face the winner of the Plymouth-Creswell battle in the Sectional Round of the playoffs.
No. 4 Riverside (10-2) at No. 1 Southwest Onslow (11-1)
The Knights’ postseason got off to a good start as they soundly beat No. 5 Perquimans 47-6 and excelled in all phases of the game.
Ramelle Lanier led Riverside as he scored four times on only five carries and tallied 78 yards, while running back Quentin Lawrence made the most of his eight carries by racking up 95 yards and a score. Quarterback Luke Mathews hit on nine of his 15 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown to lead a balanced offensive attack.
“I think it was one of our best games in the second half of the season,” Riverside coach Asim McGill said. “I thought our kids came out and executed really well.”
The Knights will challenge the Stallions with a spread attack that is one of the most balanced offenses in the area. This season they are averaging 162 rushing yards and 152 passing yards per game and have several players that are capable of making a big play at any moment.
“You can spread to run and spread to pass but I think this year we have been really balanced,” McGill said. “We have the ability to run the football and pass it. When we first used the spread in 2008 we did it more to run, but I think this year we can do a bit of both.”
Back-to-back Coastal Conference champions Southwest Onslow is an extremely physical team that will counter with a more ground-based attack that includes pro I-formation to double-tight T alignments and will use screens often to catch defenses off guard.
“They want to come out and weight-room you. They want to line up and run right at you,” McGill said. “They got some strong guys and the bottom line is you just have to stop them.”
The winner of tonight’s game will move on to face the winner of the No. 3 Ayden-Grifton-No. 2 Gates County matchup in the Sectional Round.