Much has changed for two of Beaufort County’s football teams since week one

Published 8:15 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Three weeks into the 2018 high school football season and the outlook on two of Beaufort County’s teams has changed drastically since their season-opening games.

The Washington Pam Pack began its quest for a conference title with a comprehensive 46-6 victory over East Carteret and looked every bit of a contender to win the Eastern Carolina 2A Conference. On the other hand, a young and inexperienced Southside team was drubbed 61-0 by Ayden-Grifton in week one, seemingly confirming the theory the Seahawks were in for a season of growing pains. But fast-forward two weeks and it is Southside that has won two games in a row and Washington is reeling after back-to-back losses.

The most unexpected of these reversals of fortune is the Seahawks’ sudden change in form. The future of Southside’s season looked bleak after the thrashing it received at the hands of the Chargers. But head coach Jeff Carrow and his coaching staff have been busy coaching up a team that starts two freshmen at inside linebacker and has been forced to start two sophomores and a pair of freshmen in the secondary after senior Jonquil Haywood missed time with a concussion.

The improvement Carrow’s players have shown has been quite impressive over the last two games. After allowing Dixon to score twice within the first 13 minutes in Southside’s week-two matchup against the Bulldogs, the Seahawks’ defense, led by freshman linebacker Shantez Clark, limited Dixon’s offense the rest of the way. Southside allowed only one more Dixon score, late in the fourth, and also came up with a crucial goal-line stand in the third quarter, which was made possible by Clark, who came up with several of his game-high six tackles-for-loss during the stand.

The Seahawks built on the momentum created by the 27-20 win over Dixon by dominating Perquimans, 47-0, last Friday. The Southside defense continued the good form it showed in the second half against Dixon, holding the Pirates to only 146 yards of offense. The Seahawks’ run game showed flashes against the Bulldogs, but finally broke out against Perquimans, totaling 357 rush yards and averaging 10.8 yards per rush.

Playing two games in the friendly confines of The Nest was exactly what a young Southside squad needed to adjust to playing at the varsity level, pick up a pair of wins and gain some confidence. But now the Seahawks will have to show they can take their game on the road, as Southside heads to Gatesville this week to take on a 2-0 Gates County squad.

While the Seahawks’ recent success was unexpected after their season-opening performance, Washington’s two-game slide after beginning the season with a 40-point win wasn’t as surprising. The lack of shock isn’t due to the fact that the Pam Pack failed to impress in week one, but because Washington’s caliber of opposition increased greatly in weeks two and three.

After dominating East Carteret in week one, Washington made a trip to Tarboro to take on the defending 1A state champion Vikings, who returned 23 seniors from last year’s undefeated team. Tarboro thoroughly manhandled the Pam Pack, doling out a 48-0 walloping, but the Vikings do that to everybody. There is no shame in losing to a Tarboro team that has yet to win by less than 43 points and outscored all opponents last year by a margin of 765-66.

Washington followed that loss by hosting D.H. Conley. The Pam Pack went toe to toe with the Conley Vikings and led 33-28 at halftime. An hour-long delay due to lightning seemed to throw Washington off its game, and Conley went on to win, 56-45. What really separated the two squads was the fact Conley has a Division-I-level athlete on its roster in wide receiver C.J. Johnson. The East Carolina commit repeatedly torched the Pam Pack defense, scoring five touchdowns on the night.

Washington’s defense was a point of weakness last season and looked to have become a strength after the Pam Pack shut down East Carteret. Washington’s defense has looked rather porous the past two games, giving up a combined 104 points. Factoring the quality of opponents, it’s more likely the Pam Pack’s defense is somewhere in between the stout force it appeared to be in week one and the sieve it was in the two losses.

Washington will have a chance to get back its winning ways when they host Northside, another team lacking experience that’s exceeding expectations. The Panthers are 3-0 so far and didn’t surrender any points until this past Friday. Northside’s defense has been impressive so far, keeping the likes of North Duplin off the scoreboard and generating many turnovers, but the Panthers have also been sloppy on offense.

Friday’s matchup between the two Beaufort County rivals provides a great opportunity for both teams. Washington can get back on track after a rough patch and pick up some momentum before conference play begins. Northside, on the other hand, can continue to prove the doubters wrong and continue its undefeated start to the season.