Stepping Up: Northside, Washington fighting from different positions

Published 6:03 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Southside played its final regular-season game last week, leaving Northside and Washington to finish things up this week.

What a difference three years can make. In 2014, the Pam Pack and Panthers both looked to gain momentum when they took on struggling teams in their respective conferences. Washington railroaded North Johnston, 48-0, for its 10th win in a row. The Panthers upended Lejeune, 52-18, to earn themselves home-field advantage in the first round of the 2014 state playoffs.

North Duplin ended up rolling past Northside, 56-28, in the first round. Meanwhile, Washington cruised to the 2-AA title game.

Three years later, the two Beaufort County teams have flip flopped positions. Northside has a shot to finish second behind Tarboro in the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference. There’s a logjam for second place as the Panthers, Pamlico County and South Creek each take a 3-2 league record into the final week.

However, South Creek is all but assured to get demolished by the front-running Vikings. That leaves the Panthers and Pamlico County, who play each other for second place.

Washington, on the other hand, is fighting to continue its season. The Pam Pack would love nothing more than to erase last season’s three-win season by improving on that win total and earning a trip to the postseason after missing out last year.

Standing in the way is the only unbeaten team in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference. West Craven is a newcomer not only to the league, but also to the 2-A classification.

The Eagles lost key components to last year’s team that went unbeaten in the 3-A Coastal Conference. That hasn’t stopped them from running the show in their new division. Teams have come within a possession of besting West Craven, but Washington will have to do what no other in the conference has to earn a playoff berth.

Unfortunately for the Pam Pack, that hasn’t been its strong suit this season. Four of Washington’s games have been decided by one possession. Its 36-32 win at Northside is the only time it has come out on the winning side of those close games.

That roadblock — be it mental, physical or both — has plagued Washington’s season. In conference play, two touchdowns have separated the Pam Pack from being 4-1 instead of its current 2-3 standing in the ECC.

Northside had the same problem earlier in the year. Seven points between that close loss to Washington and a 41-38 shortcoming in its CPC opener at Riverside was the difference in being 4-2 instead of 2-4 heading into its bye week.

That off week proved to be a turning point for the Panthers, though. They have won three of four games since. Two of those victories came in those one-possession games that eluded them in the first half of the fall.

It’s more than looking at how one program has fallen off and how another has experienced a resurgence. Both have gone through similar hardships. One has overcome them to earn the right to fight for favorable playoff seeding while the other is trying not to miss the playoffs for a second-straight year.