11/02/06 — It's Rivalry Week

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It's Rivalry Week

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 2, 2006 1:47 PM

"Rivalry Week" is upon us.

Games take on a different meaning, but the teams involved don't play for nifty prizes like the Little Brown Jug, Paul Bunyan's axe, the Oaken Bucket or the Apple Cup.

They play for pride and bragging rights within their communities.

Some contests on Friday have larger implications. North Lenoir needs a victory over archrival Greene Central to become playoff eligible. Princeton hasn't beaten Rosewood since the mid-1980s.

And the grand-daddy of 'em all -- Wallace-Rose Hill/James Kenan -- is for all the marbles in the Class 1-A Super Six Conference. The two teams are unbeaten and ranked among the state's top five teams in the latest Associated Press prep poll.

More than 3,000 pre-sale tickets for the game have been purchased at both schools combined since Wednesday morning.

First-year Tigers coach Ken Avent Jr. isn't too worried about scribing a great pre-game motivational speech.

"Most people playing high school football have never experienced what these kids will on Friday," said Avent Jr. "This game is always important and I think it's one of the best games in the state. Our kids have been in this environment before, too, because we had a big crowd here last year and they know what it's all about.

"They've got friends down there, so there really isn't a whole lot you have to say."

Key facts surrounding this series provide enough incentive:

* Wallace-Rose Hill is 29-0 against Super Six opponents;

* James Kenan has lost seven straight in the series;

* In their four previous trips to Thell B. Overman Field, Tiger football teams have been shut out 198-0.

"When you play a game like this, you can't make mistakes," said Avent Jr. "If it turns out to be a close game, it can come down to one play here or there."

The Tigers seized three consecutive wins in the series from 1997-1999, including a 27-0 whipping of the Bulldogs at Teachey. However, since 1941, Wallace-Rose Hill has emerged victorious in 49 of 70 meetings that includes one tie.

Rosewood and Princeton first played in 1971 during the old Wayne-Edgecombe-Wilson-Johnston Conference days. The 36th installment kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the Fred Bartholomew Athletic Complex.

"Ain't none bigger and I've been around a long time ... yes sir," said 14th-year Rosewood head coach Daniel Barrow. "The great thing about the series is historically it's been such a clean rivalry. It's your neighbor and we have a tremendous amount of respect for one another.

"Some of our students go to church with their students."

Each team has been riddled with injuries this season.

Rosewood tailback Devon Bennett, who has been bothered by a nagging ankle injury, is expected to miss the game. Defensive back Drake Webster will also miss the game.

Quarterback Josh Myers took a couple of hard shots during the North Duplin game and was sick Tuesday.

"Hopefully, he'll be ready to go on Friday," said Barrow. "They're a much-improved football team and look good to me defensively. On tape, I really believe they match up well with us."

Princeton has struggled offensively since losing quarterback Matt Blackwell. The Bulldogs have experienced trouble blocking on a consistent basis, but have managed to open good running lanes for Gerrell Bogle.

Bogle has rushed for nearly 800 yards.

Second-year coach Russell Williamson expects to see another good Rosewood team and feels one key will be containing Myers in the option game.

"Myers is quick and can scoot down the field," said Williamson. "We have to contain him and block well. When you look at the film, we're blocking, but one guy will miss somebody."

The Eagles lead the all-time series 27-8.

North Lenoir's playoff drive started two weeks ago. The Hawks recorded back-to-back wins over North Pitt and Goldsboro, and need to keep the streak going with an upset of Greene Central.

Anything less and their postseason hopes are dashed.

"We knew we had to win out to have a chance and the kids have really stepped up," said North Lenoir coach Wayne Jackson after the Goldsboro win. "We're just excited that we still have something to play for next week.

"The challenge of having to win our last three games seems to have really fired up the kids."

Greene Central (8-2) enters on the heels of an eight-point loss against Farmville Central. The loss knocked the Rams from the unbeaten ranks in Eastern Plains Conference play, and could have cost them a home playoff contest.

The Rams lead the all-time series 28-13-1.