FRIDAY FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Pack meets 2014 playoff foe following bye week

Published 1:15 pm Thursday, September 17, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS POWER RUNNER: Southside running back Matt Baxter finds a seam and breaks free for a run during last week’s 46-42 shootout at home against Riverside.

POWER RUNNER: Southside running back Matt Baxter finds a seam and breaks free for a run during last week’s 46-42 shootout at home against Riverside.

The upset win over D.H. Conley now a distant memory, Washington has used the last two weeks to fine tune and build upon a new philosophy — utilizing their top players on both sides of the ball with junior Tripp Barfield under center.

In his first game at quarterback, Barfield completed 3-of-4 passes in a reorganized offense, limiting turnovers and managing the running bakes effectively. The result of the personnel shift was flourishing production from senior running back Clinton Pope, who rushed for 297 yards on 33 carries — the most yards by a single back under head coach Sport Sawyer. Senior Jarquez Keyes, who is off to an excellent start to the season on both sides of the ball, also had a notable stat line, recording 113 yards on 18 carries.

The objective now is to avoid regressing after the bye week and pick up right where the Pam Pack left off. But it certainly doesn’t get any easier tomorrow, as Washington hosts Roanoke Rapids, a team that the Pack knocked off 28-0 in the quarterfinals of the state tournament last season.

Against one of the largest and most talented South Creek teams in recent memory, Northside’s undersized offensive line struggled to open up space for its backfield in a 42-18 loss last week in Robersonville. Quarterback Jackson Midgette completed 8-of-14 passes, but the Cougars secondary contained the big play, limiting the junior to just 85 yards through the air.

Question marks still remain on both sides of the ball for head coach Keith Boyd, but he’s hoping that the tough nonconference competition will make the Panthers battle tested come Coastal Plains Conference play. The Northside defense will have its hands full tomorrow against quarterback Jeremiah Wilson and the Riverside spread offense.

In one of the most exciting games of the young season, Southside won a come-from-behind slugfest over the Knights last week in Chocowinity, 46-42. The battle between two ranked 1-A teams featured over 1,000 yards of total offense, 40 first downs and a handful of dynamic plays from the special teams. For a defense that looked solid through the first three weeks, Wilson provided an athletic test for the Southside front seven.

After last week’s exhausting win, the Seahawks face off against Spring Creek, a team they defeated 48-12 last year.


WASHINGTON (1-2, 0-0 Eastern Plains) VS. ROANOKE RAPIDS (3-1, 0-0 Northern Carolina)

Location: Choppy Wagner Stadium

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Last season, against one of the most formidable 2-A defenses in the state, Roanoke Rapids struggled to get any sort of ground game going against the Pam Pack front seven. The result was a shutout, the Yellowjackets tallying a mere 67 yards of total offense and ending their season with a 10-4 record.

This season, the Yellowjackets have shifted their offensive approach with senior quarterback De’juan Walker, who has already completed 24 passes for 349 yards and seven touchdowns through four games. Through three games, Washington’s secondary has looked shaky, as Havelock and even run-heavy Tarboro and Conley have had success throwing the football.

But for Sawyer, Pope’s Week 3 performance is a promising step in the right direction and, conversely, the Yellowjackets have been inconsistent from game-to-game in defending against the run. If Washington can contain Walker and find a rhythm in the ground game, the Pam Pack has an opportunity to jump back to .500 with a victory.



NORTHSIDE (2-2, 0-0 Coastal Plains) VS. RIVERSIDE (2-2, 0-0 Two Rivers)

Location: Bing Mitchell Stadium

Time: 7 p.m.

PINETOWN — During last week’s game at Southside, Wilson was the focal point of the Riverside spread offense, throwing for 170 yards and two touchdowns against a proven secondary, while also returning a kickoff for a touchdown and rushing for a team-high 85 yards on 20 carries. Whether it was the Seahawk coaching staff or fans in attendance, Wilson’s pure athleticism went unquestioned.

For Northside, tomorrow’s matchup against one of the most dynamic dual-threat, 1-A quarterbacks in the East will be a much tougher test than last week. Frankly, it’ll be up to the Panthers’ offense, led by Midgette, to keep pace in what’s bound to be another high-scoring affair.

Midgette, however, has been a bright spot for Boyd thus far, the scrappy junior tallying 443 yards and three touchdowns through the air in four games. He’ll need to bring his A-game, as the Panthers’ backfield should be mismatched against a sizable Riverside front seven.



SOUTHSIDE (4-0, 0-0 Coastal Plains) VS. SPRING CREEK (2-2, 0-0 Carolina)

Location: Seven Springs

Time: 7 p.m.

Against a strong Riverside defense, the Southside running game finally got back on track last week, compiling 500 yards and averaging 8.3 yards a carry. And even with the absence of senior Dylan Lewis, who is out for the season with a knee injury, Lawrence Brown, Amari Peele and Matt Baxter picked up the slack.

Brown, who has already rushed for 532 yards and six touchdowns, should add to his season total tonight against a Spring Creek team that has given up an average of 27 points per game. That being said, the Gators have performed admirably through the first four weeks, an improvement over last season’s 2-9 finish. They now not only have depth, but size, including a pair of 300-plus-pound senior linemen in Anthony Henriquez and Jordan Rasheed.

Southside, however, has unmatched speed and athleticism at nearly every position, which should lead them to a comfortable victory tonight on the road.