Stepping Up: Local teams playing with something to prove

Published 4:06 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

James Madison rolled into Greenville playing like it had something to prove. The defending FCS national champion Dukes were confident in themselves, and that drive to show what they’re worth propelled them to a 20-point win over East Carolina.

That kind of motivation can be a dangerous force. Before ECU’s shocking loss, Southside and Northside dealt out disappointments of their own. The Seahawks were unstoppable in every phase of the game as they manhandled Perquimans — the same Pirates squad that showed plenty of promise against Northside — 61-0 for their third win in a row.

The Seahawks don’t quite have anything to prove to others. They’ve made it to consecutive regional-championship games, but have fallen short by five points in each. However, they’re playing like they have something to prove to themselves. Coach Jeff Carrow talked before the season about the program taking the next step and overcoming that hump.

Southside has rolled through the first quarter of the season like it’s trying to show itself and others that it can contend for a championship. The way things have gone through three weeks, the Seahawks certainly look like a program that can make that jump. They shutout a 2-A team in Ayden-Grifton and have made quick work of Dixon and Perquimans.

The Panthers had something to prove to themselves and everyone else Friday at Columbia. There are high expectations despite losing tons of the talent that helped produce a stellar 2016 campaign. After being overwhelmed late by North Duplin a week prior, Northside fired on all cylinders in a 50-point showing on the road against the Wildcats.

It was just the boost Northside needed. Injuries on its offensive and defensive lines were a concern. Leaders on the team stepped up. Senior Gray Lewis, playing with a broken hand, helped the offensive line produce openings that made the likes of Tyree Blount, Matthew Marslender and Johnathan Clark effective.

The offensive output did more than just put the Panthers back in the win column. It gives them confidence in their offense as they head into their biggest test of the season: a local showdown with Washington.

No team has more to prove than the Pam Pack, though. Coach Jon Blank described its first quarter of the season as “murder’s row.” It played 1-A powerhouse East Carteret close in a 1-point loss. It got slaughtered, 48-0, by a Tarboro team that will compete for a state championship. Conley’s firepower was too much to handle in the second half this past week.

Now, with that stretch in the rear-view mirror, it prepares to face a Northside team that will ready to show what it’s capable of against its toughest opponent to date. It will be a tough task for both sides. The winless Pam Pack may not have the same confidence in its offense when it travels to Pinetown. That said, with the advantages Washington should enjoy in the trenches, it may not take long for the Pam Pack to find some offensive synergy in that game.

Northside and Southside proved a lot last week. Washington has shown glimpses in the past three weeks. The Panthers have seen stellar athletes, but not as deep a team as Washington will field. Both will be ready to prove something, making for a must-see week.