11/01/07 — Duplin County rivals to decide league title

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Duplin County rivals to decide league title

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 1, 2007 3:18 PM

WARSAW -- Regular-season finales don't get much bigger than this.

And when it's two bitter archrivals facing each other in a high-stakes affair, you can expect the intensity and emotional levels for both teams to run rampant for at least the first quarter.

Yep, there will no better game than Friday's clash between No. 2-ranked James Kenan (10-0 overall) and Wallace-Rose Hill (8-2). Each team enters 4-0 in Class 1-A Super Six Conference play. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Bill Taylor Field.

"I think we're pretty focused and really excited," Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. said. "We're playing for a conference championship against a rival. We're ready to go. We've got 28 seniors and they do a good job of getting us ready every week.

"I think it's going to be a really good football game."

Unlike previous years, the underdog role has reversed for this meeting. The Tigers pulled off a 28-12 win in Teachey a year ago and have nine consecutive Super Six victories under their belt. The Bulldogs are considered the underdog this time around.

But convincing Avent Jr. that his program has gained the upper hand in this storied rivalry isn't easy.

"I don't know (if anything has changed)," he said. "I think us winning last year was big. It gave us a lot of confidence. These two teams are usually very evenly balanced. It usually just come downs to who plays the best."

Despite last Friday's wet conditions and most teams in the area choosing to postpone their games, James Kenan opted on the side of normalcy. The Tigers rolled to a 40-13 win over Midway.

"We definitely wanted to play and not have a short week," Avent Jr. said. "We had to have a short week last year, and any time you can play on Friday you want to go ahead and take advantage of that."

In 10 games this year, the Tigers have scored nearly 37 points a contest, while giving up just under seven. Tailback Brandon Satchell has gained over 1,250 yards and found the end zone 14 times. The senior averages 130 yards a game and close to seven yards per carry. He's a key reason why James Kenan's ground attack has excelled this season.

Finding room to run against a Bulldogs defense that surrenders less than 14 points a game, and was last scored on three weeks ago could be tough.

"I think Wallace is playing real good defense right now," Avent Jr. said. "They've gotten better as the year has gone on. They're playing good football right now."

With the postseason just a week away, Kenan couldn't ask for more of a measuring stick than the gut-check it should receive on Friday night. The Tigers haven't been truly tested all season, with their tightest ball game of the year coming in a 19-3 victory at East Duplin in mid-September. Finding out exactly where his football team stands entering the playoffs is something Avent Jr. is welcoming with open arms.

"I think it's great," Avent Jr. said. "They're one of the best teams in the state year in and year out. This should give us an idea of where we are. Any time you have to play a team as good as they are it helps you focus."