Powers set to collide

Published 8:48 pm Thursday, November 17, 2011

Plymouth coach Robert Cody (right) gives a play to quarterback Sharmontez Ferebee during a game earlier this year. Tonight, No. 3 Plymouth will battle No. 1 Manteo in the Sectional Round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

PLYMOUTH — The rivalry continues. For the last three years there has been no better matchup in the Four Rivers Conference than Plymouth v. Manteo and tonight the two teams will collide for the sixth time in three season when the No. 3 Vikings travel to face the No. 1 Redskins in the Sectional Round of the NCHSAA1-A playoffs.
Heading into tonight’s matchup Manteo holds a 3-2 record over Plymouth in their last five meetings but the Vikings’ two wins have both come in the playoffs. During that time span at least one of the teams has been undefeated leading up to the contest, except for tonight where both have matching 11-1 records.
The last time these two teams clashed was in Week 10 when Plymouth, who was undefeated and ranked fourth in the state at the time, fell 46-40 in overtime to a one-loss Manteo team that was ranked seventh.
The Vikings had a 13-point lead with under five minutes left in the game when the Redskins rallied to force overtime before winning the game.
“The last time we played we had a 40-27 lead with 4:23 left in the game,” Plymouth coach Robert Cody said. “Then they were able to throw three long bombs and recover an onside kick to catch up.”
Aside from being one of the best teams in the conference and state just about every year, these two teams have much more in common.
Both feature a ground based offense as Plymouth runs the wing-T and Manteo executes its option attack out of a base flexbone formation, while defensively both squads use a 3-5 scheme.
Cody and Redskins’ coach Eddie Twyne do not have extensive playbooks, but master the select plays that they run.
One of the biggest differences between the two teams offensively is how they align. The Vikings will primarily stay in its wing-T while the Redskins use several formations in an attempt to catch opposing defenses out of place.
“In a lot of ways we are more similar than we are different,” Twyne said. “We don’t run that many plays but we are going to formation it and block it a little different. That’s our strength, the use of our many formations.”
How Cody’s team reacts to Manteo’s formations will play a key role in tonight’s game.
“Yes, it’s a big factor. When you play them it’s all about alignment, alignment, alignment,” Cody said. “I think sometimes you get too involved in it. It’s probably better just to stay in our base defense instead of trying to react to them because in base we do have an alignment for every formation they’ve got. When you try to do too much then the players are running around trying to figure out where they are supposed to be and the next thing you know they’re popping off a play up the middle for a big gain because you were out of place.”
Plymouth has had plenty of big plays itself and is led by a solid core of running backs that includes Quadre Pettiford, Kendrick Pitt, Devonte Bland and Carl McCray.
On the season, Plymouth has outscored opponents 588-179 and Cody said that his team has stepped up its play since that Week 10 loss to the Redskins.
“I feel like we’ve improved a whole lot since we played Manteo the first time,” Cody said. “We’ve gotten more fundamentally sound, but it will still come down to blocking and tackling and not turning the ball over.”
While the Vikings rely on its running game to run past opponents, they have opened up the passing game a little bit more this year thanks to quarterback Sharmontez Ferebee’s strong arm and TE Chris Rogerson’s soft hands. Plymouth is very adept at lulling teams to sleep with its running game, then attacking with a long play-action pass.
Like the Vikings, Manteo has also seen a spike in its passing production this season.
“Our quarterback Ian Baumberger runs the option about as good as any kid we’ve had here but we’ve added another dimension this year,” Twyne said. “He’s passed for over 1,000 yards this year, which even when we went to the states in 2006, I don’t think we had a 1,000-yard passer.”
Like the Vikings, the Redskins have a stellar group of running backs as Shaquille Spruill has rushed for 984 yards, Desmond McMurran has tallied 801 yards and star fullback Ja’rezze McLease has run for 522 yards despite missing a large chunk of the season with an injury.
Whichever team can run the ball most effectively and limit turnovers will advance to take on the winner of the No. 1 North Edgecombe (8-3)-No. 3 Jones (8-4) matchup in the Regional Round of the playoffs.