Vikings looking to cage Bulldogs|Winner advances to state title game

Published 9:33 am Friday, December 3, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES,, Sports Writer
After getting some payback on Manteo with a 36-32 victory in the Sectional Round of the playoffs, Plymouth faces a less personal, but much larger challenge as it takes on the reigning NCHSAA 1-A champions Wallace-Rose Hill on the road tonight with the right to represent the East in the state title game on the line.
Having won seven conference titles in the last 10 years, the top-seeded Bulldogs (14-0, Tri-County Conference) have a strong football tradition and this year’s team might be the best its produced during that 10-year stretch.
In 2008, the Bulldogs were a team that struggled as the finished the season with 2-10 record. However, they rebuilt in a hurry as they produced a magical 2009 season in which they won a 38-37 thriller over an undefeated Mount Airy team to win the NCHSAA 1-A title as a No. 4 seed.
That victory landed Wallace-Rose Hill the No. 1 ranking in the state heading into this season, and it has been there ever since.
“They are probably the best 1-A team in the state,” Plymouth coach Robert Cody said. “They are big, they’re fast, plus you have to go down there which is always difficult.”
While Wallace-Rose Hill has had a lot off success, Plymouth is no stranger to big games either. The third-seeded Vikings (13-1, Four Rivers Conference) have won three conference championships since 2005 and won a state championship in 2007 when they went a perfect 16-0.
Plymouth’s lone loss of the year came at the hands of conference rival Manteo in Week 11, but the Vikings avenged that loss last Friday when topped the Redskins 36-32 on the road.
After jumping out to a x-x lead at halftime, Manteo struck back and was able to take a 32-29 lead into the fourth quarter. Plymouth, which was ranked as high as No. 2 in the state before its regular season loss to the Redskins, countered with one last punch when running back Devonte Bland ripped off a 29-yard TD run for the games final score and a 36-32 victory.
Bland finished the game with 140 rushing yards, as did fellow running back Ronnell Blount, who added two touchdowns on the night.
Cody said the win spoke volumes about his team.
“It showed a whole lot of character,” Cody said. “I wish we could have punched it (into the end zone) when it was 29-25, we probably could have put it away in the third quarter, but we didn’t. We got behind, but we were able to come back and win the game. That was great.”
The Vikings are hoping that a win like that, along with a tougher path through the playoffs, built some fortitude and will help them keep their cool in tonight’s high-pressure game.
To get to this point, the Vikings beat No. 6 Northside (3-8) 49-12, then hit the road to face No. 2 Creswell 9-2) and topped the Tigers 50-6. After that, Plymouth hit the road for its showdown last week with Manteo.
On the other hand, Wallace-Rose Hill has not played anyone higher that a fifth seed or with a winning record in the postseason.
The Bulldogs rolled past No. 8 Lejune (2-9) 70-16, then crushed No. 5 North Duplin (5-7) by the score of 42-7, then steam rolled No. 6 Northampton-West (6-6) 50-7 in the Sectional Round of the playoffs.
“I think playing anybody that you have had any kind of doubt against makes you tougher,” Cody said. “I would say it’s a little bit of an advantage for us having to play tougher teams.”
On the way to their state championship last season, the Bulldogs faced an upstart Plymouth team that was still riding a high of beating previously undefeated Manteo in the District Round.
The Vikings’ momentum wasn’t enough to get them past Wallace-Rose Hill though, as the Bulldogs cruised past Plymouth’s to end its season.
Cody said one of the biggest differences between this year and last year is that his team is a little more seasoned.
“Well, I think we were just happy to be there last year. We beat Manteo and we weren’t as good as Manteo last year,” Cody said. “This year we are a little bit bigger and stronger and I think we can compete with them a little bit better. … The team is more focused, and the best thing is that they’re scared. When you are scared you tend to work a little harder and hopefully some good things will happen to us.”
The thing Plymouth must focus on the most is the Wallace-Rose Hill quarterback, who is the motor that drives the Bulldogs’ wing offense.
“They are really good, they run the Delaware Wing-T and they run it to a ‘T’,” Cody said. “They’re pretty fast and they execute so well; that’s the big thing. … They got two backs that are really fast and they have a quarterback who is really good. He is about 6-3, 195-pounds and he played against us last year. When it comes right down to it he is the one kid who can beat you. He might be the best athlete on the field.”
The Vikings have some good athletes themselves, and will strike back with their own wing offense which is led by reigning WDN Athlete of the Year Ronnell Blount, along with Bland, Carl McCray and Dylan Watts, all of which are capable of 100-yard games.
Like most big games, whoever wins up front generally wins the war. Tonight, the big matchup will be the Plymouth offensive line, which is led by 6-7 left tackle Paris Palmer, versus a Bulldogs’ D-line that played a major role in helping the team top the Vikings last season.
“They run a 5-2 with a cover four defense, the same thing I just saw against Manteo. Their linebackers scrape so well, and their defensive line is really quick,” Cody said. “Our offensive line has got to get down and make sure the defensive tackles don’t beat us like they did last year when they were just shooting through the line. … (This year) the line is the one place I hope we do hold an edge. If we can block well we have a chance.”
The winner of tonight’s game will move on to the state title game where it will play the winner of the No. 2 Hobbton (10-4)-No.1 Murphy (12-2) matchup.