Friday Football Preview: Area teams enter conference competition

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, September 21, 2017

Five games into the 2017 season and it’s time to begin anew. Non-conference success can go a long way for building confidence, finding out what works and what doesn’t, and in establishing a team’s postseason résumé.

This Friday marks the beginning of the crux of the football season. Conference play is where a team earns its playoff seeding. For Washington, which won just one non-conference game, this part of the season is its only hope of earning a playoff bid.

It’s truly new ground for the Pam Pack, which will travel to Greene Central for its first league game as a member of the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference.

There’s a similar feeling for Northside and Southside, too. Both remained in the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference during the most recent round of realignment, but the Panthers and Seahawks each open their respective league schedules with newcomers to the conference.



Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Riverside

This same match up took place just over a year ago. Northside and Riverside, both 4-0 going into the game, clashed in Williamston on Sept. 16, 2016. The Knights used explosive play from their skill players to rout the Panthers, 61-14. East Carolina commit Jadakis Bonds had four catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Beach, then a sophomore quarterbacking Riverside, was 7-of-9 throwing for 273 yards and five aerial scores.

Riverside, like Northside, has lost its fair share of playmakers. While Bonds was able to use his speed and height to his advantage, he also had Markel Freeman and Jahkee Cooper taking pressure off of him. They combined for over 250 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

Bonds has obviously been Beach’s favorite target this season. He has 376 yards and five touchdowns receiving in four games played. Ahshaan Belchher has emerged as a capable No. 2 receiver for the Knights, too.

The two of them help spread opposing defenses, allowing Riverside to move the ball on the ground. Nakwon Burns leads the team with 312 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Beach, like last season, has been mobile. He has a team-best five rushing touchdowns. Bonds can use his legs, too.

The Panthers may be left looking for ways to keep up with Riverside’s playmakers again. However, the Knights also lost a bevy of linemen to graduation. That gives Northside a much better chance of competing in the trenches.

Northside has as experienced a defensive secondary as one can find. That group has already witnessed once what Riverside’s offense is capable of. Regardless, with the way the Knights will spread things up, it will be tough for the Panthers to match the sheer speed against them.




Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Greene Central

Much like it did last year, Washington looks to recuperate its non-conference losses with a strong showing in league play. That will be a tall order, though, as the Pam Pack travels to Snow Hill to make its 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference debut against an experienced Greene Central club.

Offensively, the Rams are led by senior quarterback Jackson Batchelor. He picks up chunk yardage through the air. He’s 56-of-106 for 847 yards (15.1 yards-per-completion) on the season. He has a cast of three seniors to throw the ball to: Torrence Clark, Taboris Bynum and Rhaheem Edwards. Clark leads the way with 321 yards receiving. Byrnum and Edwards each have over 200.

Greene Central’s biggest weapon has proven to be Willie Edwards. He has 520 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns through four games.

It will be interesting to see how Greene Central approaches the game from an offensive standpoint. The Rams have been successful with their balanced approach, but the Pam Pack was unable to stop the run as Bertie amassed over 400 yards on the ground last week.

The Rams also boast plenty of experience all over the defensive side of the field. Cole Wilson and Cartell Hill, who also play offensive line, are two team captains on the defensive line. Senior linebackers Trey Dawson and Wayne Warren help round out that front seven.

Tyreke Speight brings plenty of pressure from the secondary. The senior captain leads Greene Central in tackling and has no problem coming down on safety blitzes. Dacian Moore is another playmaker among the defensive backs.

Washington is going to have to turn a corner to be able to start the conference stretch on the right foot. Of course, it shouldn’t be caught off guard after the grueling non-conference schedule it played, but that doesn’t mean it has the ability to stop what’s coming.




Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Southside

Southside will face a challenge unlike any other it has seen. It opens 1-A Coastal Plains Conference play Friday with the league’s newest team. Undefeated Tarboro, the runaway favorite to win the conference crown and a likely state-championship team, rolls into Chocowinity.

The Vikings intend to continue their rampage, and Southside may not be able to stand in their way. The Seahawks will be without key players in Amari Peele and Jamison Bennett. Both left last week’s game against North Duplin. Brandon Sullivan is also recovering from a concussion and may not see action on Friday.

When Washington hosted Tarboro earlier in the season, it was able to find moderate success passing the ball. Peele was one of quarterback Will Warren’s go-to targets, so he and Demetrius Ebron will need to be on the same page from the get go.

The Seahawks will need consistent play up front more than ever. It will be crucial to them plugging in different players in the backfield. However, opposite Southside’s offensive line will be a sizeable Viking front. Tarboro boasts five upperclassmen linemen that weigh at least 260 pounds. Tucker Harrell and Nijee Chandler both clock in at least 300 pounds.

Coach Jeff Carrow and his staff know exactly what the Vikings will bring on offense, but that doesn’t mean it will be remotely easy to stop. The “Tarboro T” has been their system for what seems like an eternity. This year, it has proven fruitful of a host of running backs. Deonte Williams leads the team with 379 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He, Jaquez Edge, Clifton Joyner and Malik Dickens — all upperclassmen — have at least 225 yards rushing.

There could be positives to take away regardless of outcome. Only North Edgecombe has scored more than one touchdown on the Vikings. They’ve shutout two opponents this season. A modest showing on offense and not getting obliterated on defense can go a long way for confidence.