Friday Football Previews: Washington, Southside hoping to bounce back
Published 8:26 pm Thursday, September 15, 2016
Each team is roughly a third of the way through the season at this point. As it stands, Northside has asserted its dominance locally with a perfect 4-0 start. The Panthers will hope to keep the ball rolling at Riverside, which is also undefeated.
The Panthers ranked in at No. 10 in the Associated Press 1-A prep football poll this week. Their first true test of the season came at Southside about two weeks ago, and they won in rather convincing fashion.
Since then, the Seahawks have fallen to 2-2. They fell in overtime at Riverside last week after the aforementioned loss at home to Northside. They just barely came up short against a strong Knights team, so there’s no sense in going back to the drawing board. Southside has offensive and defensive tools for success. Not falling below .500 this week will be crucial to the way the rest of the season plays out.
Washington, however, has gone back to the drawing board a bit. After focusing on more of a spread offense throughout the offseason, the Pam Pack may be returning to its roots with more of a ground-based assault. The boys spent their bye week last week trying to refocus mentally and find some confidence.
Washington has scored just once in three games this season and is still searching for its first win. This very same matchup was an important building block for the Pam Pack last season, too, after a 0-2 start.
WASHINGTON (0-3, 0-0 EASTERN PLAINS) AT ROANOKE RAPIDS (3-0, 0-0 NORTHERN CAROLINA)
Location: Roanoke Rapids
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Not a lot has gone right for Washington thus far, but it had a chance to step back and evaluate everything during last week’s bye. What it may likely result in is a return to its systematic roots in terms of a run-first offense.
Suae Poe scored Washington’s first and only touchdown of 2016 last time out against Conley. He’s just one of the Pam Pack’s talented running backs. Hykeem Ruffin, Jaquez Ruffin and others have proven their ability to move the ball on the ground.
Roanoke Rapids enters this meeting in a polar-opposite situation. The Yellow Jackets are a perfect 3-0 on the season, but look like a beatable team. None of their three wins thus far have come against an opponent with a winning record.
Senior quarterback Cameron Rogerson is the motor that makes Roanoke Rapids’ offense run. He’s skilled in directing the young backfield tandem of Da’raj Watson and Corey Jenkins. The two rush for a combined average of over 200 yards a game and have scored nine touchdowns.
Rogerson also isn’t afraid to air the ball out on occasion. He’s completed 15-of-31 passes this season for 212 yards and four touchdowns.
Washington is ready for whatever the Yellow Jackets present on Friday. The Pam Pack has lined up against offensive juggernauts in Havelock running back Tony Sharpe and Conley signal caller Holton Ahlers. The boys have seen it all at this point.
Expect last week’s fine-tuning, combined with the plethora of time to prepare for this week, to pay off in the form of Washington’s first win of the season.
PREDICTION: WASHINGTON 22, ROANOKE RAPIDS 14
NORTHSIDE (4-0, 0-0 COASTAL PLAINS) AT RIVERSIDE (3-0, 0-0 TWO RIVERS)
Time: 7:30 p.m.
There’s a lot riding on this matchup. Northside is off to its best start in quite some time and just made it into the AP poll for 1-A football. Coach Keith Boyd wants the momentum to keep building, especially with conference play not far off.
Riverside is likely hoping for a lot of the same. The Knights made it to the second round of the playoffs last season. A return trip to the postseason and a deeper run are in their crosshairs.
Both sides are coming off a win last week. Riverside needed overtime to finish off the same Southside team that Northside topped 23-6 in Chocowinity a week prior. The Knights lost a fumble and threw a pair of interceptions in the game.
Northside, on the other hand, proved throughout its win over South Creek that it can create plenty of turnovers. The defense scored twice — once on a fumble recovery by Tyrece Taylor and again on a pick-six by Jackson Midgette — to take the air out of the Cougars’ sails.
Riverside boasts an experienced squad. With the exception of two sophomores, the other 29 Knights on the roster are all upperclassmen. They have five linemen weighing in 250 pounds or heavier. Joseph Keyes (6-foot-1, 320 pounds) and Jalen Price (6-foot-3, 266 pounds) will be asked to neutralize Northside’s size as best they can.
Riverside’s go-to offensive threat is Markel Freeman. He had 11 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown against Southside. He also completed three passes for 58 yards.
Panther running back James Barrow will look to get back on track after an underwhelming performance last week. He struggled to hold onto the ball and wasn’t as threatening on the ground as he usually is. He eventually exited the game after rolling his ankle.
Barrow and Midgette had generally produced the bulk of the Panthers’ offense. Taylor continued to show his power running the ball, especially late in the game when South Creek struggled to bring him down.
Between Riverside’s struggles with turnovers last week and all the potent weapons the Panthers have, expect Northside to be a bit too much for the Knights to handle.
PREDICTION: NORTHSIDE 30, RIVERSIDE 15
SPRING CREEK (1-3, 0-0 CAROLINA) AT SOUTHSIDE (2-2, 0-0 COASTAL PLAINS)
Time: 7 p.m.
Southside opened the season with back-to-back wins, including a 22-0 handling of Dixon. However, the Seahawks have fallen to 2-2 since after a loss at home to Northside and an overtime loss at Riverside last week.
The Seahawks are back in front of their faithful fans for homecoming, which should provide an emotional boost. They should already be chomping at the bit after just coming up short last week.
This matchup with Spring Creek appears to be the ideal opportunity to bounce back. The Gators’ lone win of 2016 is against a dismal Lejeune team. However, some of their losses have come at the hands of some talented teams. They’ve held their own against both South Lenoir (30-22 loss) and East Carteret (35-14 loss).
Depth will likely play a factor late in the game. Spring Creek has 58 players listed on its roster, and 35 of them are upperclassmen. To counteract that, Southside’s offense has to come out firing on all cylinders. The Seahawks can’t afford for the game to be close late like last week because the Gators are less likely to run out of steam.
Joe Myers has cooled off some since an explosive start to the season. He made game-changing plays in Southside’s season-opening win at North Duplin. He only mustered 31 yards on seven carries last week at Riverside.
Meanwhile, Jamison Bennett and Trajan Rhome continue to make a case for themselves. Each got eight carries last week and combined to rush for 81 yards.
Zikajah Crawford will likely continue to be the offense’s workhorse. He carried the ball 17 times last week and scored twice, but only managed 3.4 yards per carry. If Southside’s offensive line can do a better job of opening up holes for him and others in the backfield, there’s no reason Southside can’t get back on track.
That said, the Seahawks should try to stick to the ground as best they can. Riverside intercepted them thrice last week and returned two of those picks for touchdowns.
PREDICTION: SOUTHSIDE 22, SPRING CREEK 8