Friday Football Preview: Football has arrived in Beaufort County

Published 5:09 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

Finally, football has returned.

Beaufort County kicks off the 2017 season with a pair of home games. Southside and Northside each open things up at home, while Washington hits the road for East Carteret.

There’s interesting action to follow for all three local teams. For starters, Washington begins anew in more ways than simply starting a new season. First-year head coach Jon Blank hopes to lead the Pam Pack into a new era — a return to the success the program enjoyed not too long ago — and the players have bought in. Beginning that journey with East Carteret is a tall order, though, and the coming weeks will be just as tough.

Northside would like to build on what it accomplished in 2016. A prolific offense led the Panthers into the second round of the playoffs. Although much of that firepower has departed, they hope those that have been waiting for this opportunity will capitalize. After years of opening with Creswell, Northside will host Perquimans to begin its campaign.

Like Northside, Southside will host a different team than it has in the past number of years. The Seahawks welcome neighboring Ayden-Grifton to Chocowinity. The Chargers present a lofty challenge — perhaps the most formidable of the three season openers. It will be tough for Southside to match the sheer size up front. If nothing else, though, it will let the Seahawks see top-notch competition right away as they hope to not only make it to their third-STRAIGHT regional-title game, but also take another step beyond that.



Location: East Carteret

Time: 7 p.m.

Washington and East Carteret are in similar positions in that both will have new head coaches making their respective debuts. Caleb King left Beaufort for Havelock. The accomplished skipper wasn’t the only one to depart from the Mariners, though.

Washington has its fair share of things to figure out come kickoff, but East Carteret has many more questions than answers. The Mariners lost nine starters on defense. On offense, they’re without three of five offensive linemen from last year’s team. They’re also sans 2016 starting quarterback and two of his favorite receiving targets.

Last season, Jacobie Simmons led the team in passing (1,809) and rushing yards (1,180). He accounted for 32 touchdowns. East Carteret typically does well to fill voids at its skill positions, but with a new coach and depleted offensive line, it may experience growing pains as it tries to move the ball.

The Pam Pack will take a talented and relatively experienced secondary with it to Beaufort. It should help in keeping the Mariners from moving the ball through the air as much as they like.

Washington’s success will at least partially be tethered to its performance in the trenches. The Pam Pack’s linemen, on paper, appear to be the deeper and more talented group. Effective blocking on offense will pave the way for the likes of powerhouse Hykeem Ruffin and the craftier Kaci Foreman to run the ball. It will also give quarterback Frederick Holscher a chance to pass the ball.




Location: Northside

Time: 7 p.m.

Just like the aforementioned East Carteret and Washington clubs, Perquimans also enters this season with a new coach in Ian Rapanick. The visiting Pirates are coming off of a 6-6 season in which they lost a shootout to Northamption County in the first round of the playoffs.

Perquimans returns senior quarterback Dallas Hall. He accounted for 26 of the team’s 46 offensive touchdowns (12 passing and 14 rushing). His 612 rushing yards were second to fellow senior Dwuan Williams Jr., who scurried for 927 yards. The Pirates also return another talented senior running back in D.J. Johnson.

Defensively, the visitors graduated five of their top-seven tacklers. Northside’s offense will have to be retooled after losing all but one starter. However, with a smart signal caller in Matthew Marslender, familiar center Zachary Griffin, and offensive weapons that saw plenty of action last year, the Panthers’ should hit their stride quicker than Perquimans’ defense.

Expect the two sides to spend time early on feeling one another out. Northside’s veteran defense should make plays out of the gate, especially if Hall chooses to throw often. The Pirate quarterback had 10 interceptions to his dozen touchdowns, and Northside’s secondary has ample skill.

Depth up front will also favor the Panthers on both sides of the ball. They have more players to rotate in, which should pay dividends come the fourth quarter.




Location: Southside

Time: 7 p.m.

Southside has its hands full in its first game. After a number of years kicking the season off with pseudo-rival North Duplin, the Seahawks have opted to begin with a stout, nearby opponent in Ayden-Grifton. The Chargers enter this year as the reigning 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference champions. They made it to the second round of the playoffs before being knocked off by East Bladen in overtime.

Southside’s offense may need some time to settle in. Quarterback Will Warren will be playing in his first varsity game. He’ll have a freight train in Brandon Sullivan to hand the ball off to, and a number of other options like Trajan Rhome and Amari Peele.

Warren may opt to pass the ball some, too. Cody Modlin and Demetrius Ebron have developed chemistry with the junior quarterback, but he may want to get a game or two under his belt before taking to the air too often.

The Chargers won’t be in sync right off the bat, either. They’re likely to enter this game still hoping to find a few running backs emerge as go-to options. Ayden-Grifton lost two of its best offensive weapons in recent memory. Modica Whitehurst and Brandon Hardy ran for over 3,000 yards and 50 touchdowns last season.

Up front, Ayden-Grifton doesn’t seem to have the same size as it has in the past, but should still own the advantage. Success will come from the Seahawks striking early and their defense preventing Ayden-Grifton from finding any synergy.