Stepping Up: Toughest games still ahead for Beaufort County

Published 4:01 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2017

November is almost here. Southside is playing its final game of the season on Friday. Washington and Northside wrap things up next week. Conference standings are coming down to the wire. The playoffs are looming.

At this point in the season, there are no easy games left.

Upsets happen early in the season as a team tries to find its footing. For example, Ayden-Grifton needed an identity for its offense after losing its top skill players. That let the Seahawks swoop in and blank the Chargers, 26-0, in Week 1. Fast-forward to Week 11 and Ayden-Grifton stands second in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference.

Washington and Northside have each been examples of this in Beaufort County. The Pam Pack’s offense had a strong offensive line coming in and returned quarterback Frederick Holshcer. But there were a lot of other question marks, starting with the system under new offensive coordinator Perry Owens.

The offense sputtered a bit at points. Right on time, though, it found a groove with the triple option. The Pam Pack throttled North Lenoir and South Lenoir. Its offense kept pace with Ayden-Grifton.

Meanwhile, Kinston, the next team on Washington’s slate, started the season 7-0. The Vikings have since dropped consecutive league contests to the Chargers and West Craven.

So much of this part of the season comes down to coaching. How can a staff best plan for an opponent so as to emphasize the team’s strengths? Kinston seems to have revealed a chink in its armor, and the Pam Pack will try to exploit it on Friday.

Northside’s defense has been as hot as Washington’s offense. The Panthers stymied Southside’s stellar ground attack last week. It held South Creek to one touchdown. Coaches and players alike have an all-time high confidence in what it can accomplish on that side of the ball.

Putting all the pieces together on defense couldn’t have come at a better time. The Panthers have scored just two touchdowns per game in their last two wins. The defense has made sure that’s enough, turning a spell of close losses into close wins.

There are no easy wins ahead. Injuries notwithstanding, each team is playing its best football. Washington and Northside hope their best football will be enough for a late-season surge.

For the Panthers, two more wins would mean finishing second in the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference. The Pam Pack is hoping to knock off Kinston or West Craven — or both — to climb the 2-A Eastern Carolina rankings and perhaps earn a postseason berth.

There’s no wiggle room from here on out. To reach any of those goals, the Panthers and Pam Pack have to be in top form these last two weeks.