Southside, Washington open playoffs with do-or-die mentality

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, November 12, 2015

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Sophomore running back and return specialist Amari Peele runs the ball against Lejeune in Southside’s penultimate game of the regular season. Seahawks coach Jeff Carrow looks to do more of the same during the playoffs, but hopes Peele’s work on special teams can give them a leg up.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Sophomore running back and return specialist Amari Peele runs the ball against Lejeune in Southside’s penultimate game of the regular season. Seahawks coach Jeff Carrow looks to do more of the same during the playoffs, but hopes Peele’s work on special teams can give them a leg up.

Months of work come to fruition as Southside gears up to host its first-round state playoff game. The goals set aside way back when spring workouts began have been partially realized, but there’s still so much in front of them.

“We met most of our goals at the end of the season,” said Seahawk coach Jeff Carrow. “You can’t argue with the record we’ve got right now. Guys put in the work in the offseason and it’s paid off so far.”

So far.

The Seahawks will relish their near-perfect regular season, but even when they fell to East Carteret three weeks ago, there was another game ahead of them. Now each time they take the field, it could be their last.

The older Seahawks are well aware of that. They entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in the east last year. They made it to the third round where they were knocked off by No. 1 Plymouth. The sting of that memory will help drive them and it’s something they can communicate to some of the team’s younger players.

“We can’t get out of our own where we’re trying to do things above and beyond,” Carrow said. “The guys have to understand that it’s win or go home. They’ve got five games to reach their ultimate goal of where they want to be. It’s a mentality. With last year’s experience in the playoffs, I feel like the seniors are going to help lead us this time of the year.”

After a trip to the championship game last season, Washington looks to begin its journey back to the promised land. The Pam Pack faces a tougher road. Entering as the eighth-seeded team presents match up challenges. If they can overcome a closely contested game at home with No. 9 Northside-Jacksonville, they will likely clash with No. 1 T.W. Andrews in the second round.

But again arises the importance of that do-or-die mentality. It’s not about looking down the road at a potential future opponent. Taking it one game at a time is as important as anything that will unfold under the lights.



Location: Choppy Wagner Stadium

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Northside — much like the Pam Pack — finished the regular season as one of three co-conference champions. All four of the Monarchs’ wins this season came in league play. They had won four of those non-conference match ups, but had to forfeit them. They used an ineligible player and self-reported it to the NCHSAA.

The Monarchs are battle tested. They played a tough non-conference schedule that was highlighted by three 3-A Coastal opponents, including powerhouse Havelock.

Jonte McMullen and Dwayne Washington give Northside a scary one-two punch out of the backfield. The two running backs split carries about evenly. McMullen has just north of 1,000 rushing yards and a dozen touchdowns on the season. Washington has 946 yards and seven scores.

Part of what makes the Monarchs so efficient on the ground is their ability to take to the air. Quarterback Jake Erickson has thrown for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns this year. He’s completed just under 50 percent of his passes, but he’s also only thrown four interceptions. He may not be the most accurate, but he doesn’t make many bad decisions.

On top of Erickson’s 12 passing touchdowns, he’s also ran into the end zone nine times.

The Pam Pack will attack in a similar way in that a talented group in the backfield will spearhead their run-first mentality. Clinton Pope, Jarquez Keyes and Suae Poe will all get their fair share of carries.

On defense, Washington may look to stack the box. Linebackers Lexroy Brown and Brandon Jackson will need to lend a helping hand to the defensive line. They have the ability to limit big plays on the ground, but they’ll have to be sure to defend the pass, too.




Location: Chocowinity

Time: 7:30 p.m.

All signs point to Southside continuing to dominate. The Seahawks dropped their only decision of the year in a 62-42 loss to an offensive juggernaut in East Carteret. They went on to wrap up the season with a shutout win over Lejeune and a 66-35 win against Pamlico County.

The Seahawks should continue to shine on their field.. They are a perfect 5-0 at home this season and have outscored opponents 265-85. The offense and defense are both well prepared for what Southeast Halifax brings to the table.

Nothing jumps out about the Trojan offense on paper. Quarterback Christopher Vincent leads the team in rushing touchdowns. He lacks the accuracy and decision making to be a dual threat, though. He’s completed less than 20 percent of his passes this year and has thrown five picks compared to just three touchdowns.

That said, moving the ball on the ground is the Trojans’ main objective. Seniors Justice Holloway and Jonathan Savage combine for nearly 750 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

They’ll line up an experienced Seahawk defense, though. The front seven will be stingy in allowing Southeast Halifax to move the ball on the ground, especially if they can overcome the Trojans’ size. Any lingering execution issues for the Trojans will surely be exploited.

“It doesn’t matter what team we’re playing. The box is loaded,” Carrow said. “We’ll put multiple people in the box. We’ve just got to adjust and pick up what they do offensively.”

It’s essentially more of the same for Southside. Their blueprint paid dividends over the past few months. Carrow and company prepared for the game by mostly focusing on fundamentals. The goal was to take what they were doing well and fine tune it.

Other than that, one focus for Carrow has been special teams. He’s hoping Amari Peele’s talents as a return specialist can help out the offense by getting favorable field position.

“Special teams can be a big part of the playoffs,” he said. “I think it can be a big factor.”