11/04/04 — Prep football Game of the Week -- The Duplin County war begins again

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Prep football Game of the Week -- The Duplin County war begins again

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 4, 2004 1:56 PM


James Kenan quarterback Cedric Towsend, flushed from the pocket, looks toward the end zone for an open receiver. Just seconds before a Wallace-Rose Hill defender knocks him down, Townsend uncorks a bullet-like pass that gets intercepted by Malcolm Boney.

Game over.

Wallace-Rose Hill escapes 33-26.

Fast forward.

James Kenan hasn't forgotten last year's regular-season finale at Bill Taylor Field in Warsaw. There aren't any physical remnants of the heart-breaking loss posted in the locker room, but the players and coaches remember it well.

"This ought to be the game in the state," Tigers coach Kevin Motsinger said. "Even if we both sucked, it would still be a big game because of the way we feel about each other.

"We have, what I feel, to be the two best 1-A teams in the east. We'll find out how good they are and we'll find out how good we are Friday."

Each team, currently ranked among the top 10 in the latest Associated Press prep poll, enters with an unblemished Super Six 1-A Conference worksheet at 4-0. The winner emerges the league champion and claims the higher seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA (large-school) playoffs, which begin Nov. 12.

James Kenan hasn't been in this position since 1998 when it won the Carolina Conference title.

"This week I know we're focused and we're ready," Motsinger said. "We know what Wallace has got. Shoot, our kids have played against their kids since they were eighth-graders. We know them and they know us."

The matchup features the league's two-best scoring defenses. The Tigers yield 8.8 points per game, while the Bulldogs surrender 10.1. However, Wallace-Rose Hill (8-2) has posted three consecutive shutouts in league play and allowed no points in 12-plus quarters.

James Kenan, admittedly, has struggled mentally the last two weeks. Motsinger's squad showed its character in come-from-behind wins against Hobbton and Union, which each feasted on Tiger miscues. A fourth-quarter interception preserved the Union win.

Motsinger said his team's lack of focus surfaced after the Roanoke game. The players became bored in practice because of the repetition of their flex-bone offense. They also acquired a relaxed attitude and thought that going through the motions would be enough to win ball games.

"Our kids got the mentality of 'we've got this' instead of focusing and going for the kill," Motsinger said. "That's part of the process we've been working on here for two years. At times this year we haven't handled success that well because of our focus in practice and games."

In fact, the Tigers have almost victimized themselves.

Turnovers, costly penalties and lack of offensive execution have allowed opponents to stay within striking distance during the last month. James Kenan must either limit, or as Motsinger prefers, eliminate those mistakes against Wallace-Rose Hill.

"They can score on every single play," Motsinger said. "Once they are behind us, they are going to run until they hit the back of the wall in the end zone."

Offensively, James Kenan (9-1) will go up against the junkyard dogs. Wallace-Rose Hill could set up in a four-, five- or six-man front and put multiple linebackers inside the box. The main tackler could fly in from any direction and deliver the hit.

The Tigers can't do anything different than in games past. They must utilize every part of their formations well out of their flex-bone and take what the Bulldog defense gives them -- especially short-yardage gains. If a big play occurs, then Motsinger considers it an added bonus.

Defensively, the Tigers will work against a wing-T offense that has "every formation that has been played on this planet or any other planet," according to Motsinger. The coaching staff spent at least 30 minutes working on formations in Tuesday's practice.

Wallace-Rose Hill averages 31.5 points offensively and hung 47 points on Midway last Friday evening.

"We're a good enough football team that we can play good defense," Motsinger said. "Because of our size, we can't afford to stay on the field a long time. We have to tackle well, execute and be disciplined.

"We can't cheat because they will burn you."

The Bulldogs have the speed.

The Tigers have the size.

"I just wish I was a fan and could go watch this game," Motsinger said. "I would just love to sit in the bleachers and watch these kids put it on the line. It's going to be a heckuva of a high school football game."

Wallace-Rose Hill, No. 7 in the latest poll, hasn't lost in 19 Super Six Conference games and have won the last five meetings against James Kenan. The Tigers are 9-10 against Super Six opposition and haven't won at Thell B. Overman Field since 1998.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.