Friday Football Preview: Panthers fight for second, Pam Pack fights for playoffs

Published 4:49 pm Thursday, November 2, 2017

The final week of the 2017 regular season has finally arrived. Southside finished up last week and is on its bye, resting up before the playoffs begin. That leaves Washington and Northside teams each with plenty on the line, but fighting for entirely different reasons.

Northside has the luxury of playing for second place in the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference. The Panthers are taking this senior-night game seriously, even going so far as considering it akin to a conference-title game.

But unlike the Pam Pack, Northside has already earned its spot in the playoffs. It will be competing for more favorable seeding.

Washington has to win at 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference frontrunner West Craven to extend its season beyond this week. The Pam Pack has made plenty of strides in Jon Blank’s first year as head coach. The seniors especially will be aiming to improve on last season’s win total while ensuring the team doesn’t miss the postseason for the second time in as many years.



Location: Northside

Time: 7 p.m.

Coach Keith Boyd said that Northside is treating Friday’s game as if it were for the 1-A Coastal Plains Conference championship. Tarboro has long since clinched the title, but the Vikings have proved they’re in a league of their own.

The stage doesn’t get much bigger for the Panthers. A year after picking up their first playoff win in recent memory, they’ve put together another historic campaign. They earned their first homecoming win in 12 years and brought the Anchor Bowl back to Pinetown.

The last checkmark for a stellar regular season is to pick up a win on senior night and claim second place in the CPC.

There are plenty of similarities between this Pamlico County squad and the one Northside defeated, 34-16, last year. Quarterback Lamont Murray has taken the next step in his junior season. The Panthers were able to shut him down in 2016 — holding him to 31 yards rushing on 21 carries.

This season, Murray has 787 rushing yards for a team-best 14 touchdowns. The Hurricanes’ offense has evolved a bit, though. They return senior running back Caleb Barron, who leads the team with almost 1,000 yards on the ground. They’ve also been bolstered by freshman phenom Sayvone Tutt. He has 727 yards and a dozen scores through 10 games.

Murray and Barron have deceived opposing offenses by both being effective with their arms. The two have only attempted 31 passes this year, but combine for 345 yards and seven touchdowns on 17 completions.

Defensively, Northside will have to continue doing what’s worked best. It largely contained much of Southside’s aerial offense two weeks ago. What the Panthers lack in team speed, they make up for with a physical, hard-nosed style. If they can keep the ball in front of them, their ever-improving defensive front should be able to halt the Hurricanes.

Northside will counter with its option-based run attack. Quarterback Matthew Marslender is coming off an utter domination of Jones Senior. Reading Pamlico County’s defense will be key. The 160-pound Murray, who has 74 tackles, leads the Hurricane’s defense. Barron, weighing in at 195 pounds, ranks second with 43 takedowns.

That said, fullbacks Raydarius Freeman and Cameron Cahoon may thrive using their power. Marslender and Johnathan Clark are shiftier on their feet. They’ll also get their chances to make plays, whether its on offense or in the defensive secondary.




Location: West Craven

Time: 7 p.m.

For the second year in a row, Washington’s season comes down to the final week. A win earns the Pam Pack a playoff berth. A loss means missing the postseason for a second-straight year.

Standing in the way is a West Craven team that shut out Ayden-Grifton last week to clinch the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference title.

Offensively, West Craven will present a similar challenge that Kinston did last week. The Eagles move the ball well on the ground with junior running back Jonquez Green. He carried the ball 32 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over the Chargers. The rest of the team combined for 110 yards of offense.

Senior quarterback Will Wetherington can add a wrinkle to the offense with his passing. He threw for 77 yards against Ayden-Grifton, but was also picked off twice.

Turnovers will be the key to the game. Pam Pack defensive end Drew Ferguson had a fumble recovery and an interception in last week’s loss to Kinston. Washington will need to be especially concerned with its ball security, though. It will look to air the ball out at times like Ayden-Grifton did against West Craven. The Eagle defensive backs were able to come up with three interceptions. They forced five total turnovers in the shutout win.

Washington’s defensive front got a boost from junior-varsity call ups Khyric McCloud and Sherfield Smith. The two sophomore linemen made the difference in stopping the run, which has been a problem for the Pam Pack this year.

However, the two got worn down as the game went on, which factored into the game slipping away. Washington will need its elder linemen to step up or else those veterans will be playing in their last game.