11/16/12 — Rosewood defense must contain Princeton's Frasier

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Rosewood defense must contain Princeton's Frasier

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 16, 2012 1:48 PM

Three weeks ago when Rosewood and Princeton played their regular-season finale at the Fred Bartholomew Athletic Complex, there was a chance that the loser of that game would get left out of the playoffs.

The Eagles and Bulldogs meet again -- this time at Branch Pope Field -- with a trip to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A (small-school) eastern regional championship game on the line.

Both teams have reached east semifinals with high-octane offense. So now, with just two days left to prepare, the question for both coaches is: Whose defense will step up and make a big play?

"I think that a huge key for us is getting stops," Rosewood head coach Robert Britt said. "Princeton has a dynamic offense and they can score in bunches, so any time the defense can make a play and get off the field it is a big play."

The teams combined for 550 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns in their first meeting. Rosewood won the game 43-41 in triple overtime. All of the scoring came after halftime.

"I honestly thought that we played pretty well defensively until the fourth quarter," Britt said. "Then (Princeton) made a couple of explosive plays and they scored three quick touchdowns."

If the Eagles hope to better contain the Bulldogs this time, they will need improved open-field tackling and better assignment discipline. One reason that Britt expects his defense to play better the second time around is the return of starting defensive back Josh Davis. The fleet-footed senior missed the first game due to a suspension.

"There is no doubt that Josh is a big part of what we do defensively," Britt said. "He is one of our fastest kids and he has the ability to cut some plays off just by running down a ball carrier."

Davis and his secondary mates will likely spend most of their night tracking Princeton running back Johnny Frasier. As Frasier goes, so go the Bulldogs.

"(Frasier) is one of the best backs in the area and we know that we can not let him get into the open field," Britt said. "That isn't to say that Princeton doesn't have other weapons. (Michael) Wooten can spread the receivers out and throw the ball, and (Jamaal) Allen is a big play waiting to happen with his speed."

So far in two playoff games, Princeton has scored 71 points and allowed 33. Rosewood has scored 82 and allowed 37.

Another shootout between the archrivals may be in the making.

"I hope not," Britt said. "We want to be able to control the ball and run the clock. Our best defense may actually be our offense if we can sustain drives and ground the game out."