11/08/07 — Tigers, Rebels open postseason at home

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Tigers, Rebels open postseason at home

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 8, 2007 1:50 PM

WARSAW -- Second-year James Kenan football coach Ken Avent Jr. insists neither he nor his players take their recent dominance of the Class 1-A Super Six Conference for granted.

And proof of Avent Jr.'s claim was never more apparent than last week when archrival Wallace-Rose Hill challenged his team at every turn. Despite not playing their "crispest" game of the season, the Tigers prevailed and repeated as Super Six champions.

"I wouldn't say we struggled," said Avent Jr. "There were a lot of big plays in the game both ways. Wallace was good, especially defensively. We didn't play our most crisp game.

"But, I would also say, that you can attribute some of that to what they did defensively."

Now James Kenan (11-0 overall) turns its focus to the postseason. The second-seeded Tigers entertain 15th-seeded Rosewood in an opening-round, N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA (large school) playoff game Friday. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Bill Taylor Field.

It's the first-ever postseason meeting between the two schools.

First-year Eagles head coach Robert Britt knows the Tigers are driven to return to the state championship contest. Derailing one of the east's top offensive teams will require discipline and balance, and denying the explosive plays.

"The more you make teams drive the ball down the field, the more chances you allow your defense to make plays," said Britt. "And more likely, they're going to make a mistake. I think that's the best way we can defend them.

"They make you defend the whole field, like we try to do, and do a good job of it."

James Kenan averages 35.3 points a game. Brandon Satchell has emerged the top rusher with 1,337 yards, while quarterback Shawn Jones is nearing the 1,000-yard mark passing for the season.

Josh Hicks spearheads a defense which yields just 7.7 points an outing. He recorded 11 tackles, seven assists and one sack in last week's victory over Wallace-Rose Hill.

Quarterback Sean Cornman is the Eagles' top rusher and has passed for nearly 1,000 yards this season. Stephen McIntyre is the top receiver for an offense that's developed some consistency in the last month.

"It's a great opportunity for our kids," said Britt. "Any time they are faced with a test, they look forward to it. Their attitudes are good and I know they're going to play very hard Friday evening."

Rosewood hasn't won a playoff game since 2003.

James Kenan, meanwhile, is seeking its fifth postseason victory with Avent Jr. The Tigers' last playoff meeting against a Carolina Conference occurred in 2001 when Farmville Central won 39-0 in Farmville.

"Our guys realize you can't have an off night and expect to be playing the next week," said Avent Jr. "That's our motivation to play the best we can every week."

Princeton at North Duplin

CALYPSO -- Facing a familiar opponent in the playoffs is a double-edged sword, says North Duplin head coach Hugh Martin.

Knowing the personnel and the team's tendencies is beneficial. But seeing that team and guarding against complacency could become a concern.

That's how Martin sums up tonight's first-round contest against Carolina 1-A Conference member Princeton. The Rebels (10-0 overall) are seeded No. 1 in the NCHSAA 1-A (small school) western bracket, while the Bulldawgs are seeded 16th.

"Everyone is 0-0 now and it's a whole new part of your season," said Martin. "Hopefully, our players understand games are going to be more intense because there are more things at stake. We still have a lot of room for improvement."

While examining videotapes, Martin still sees missed blocking assignments and poor reads on defense.

"One play can make a difference in practicing next week or not," said Martin. "Our goal is to eliminate the frequency of those mistakes. I can watch any tape and not be satisfied with what I saw (this season)."

Like Martin, Princeton head coach Russell Williamson is searching for positives from the teams' previous meeting. Expanding upon those successful plays and keeping the Rebels' ball-control offense on the sideline will be important.

Williamson describes the game as a "tall task" for his players.

"They're not going to give you many chances," said Williamson. "You have to do what you can with the ball when you've got it because you're not going to get much from them.

"They're a real good football team with experienced players who don't make a lot of mistakes."

Akeem Cox leads the Rebels' offense with 1,588 yards and 15 touchdowns. Quarterback Doug Lloyd hasn't been a focal point of the offense as in recent seasons, but is still a threat to score any time he takes the snap from center. The senior signal caller has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 751 yards and nine touchdowns.

Martin said that Cox has learned his role well while on the sidelines.

"He's got a good burst of speed, sees his cuts and holes very well, which is something he's gotten better with as the year has progressed," said Martin. "The linemen up front have done a good job of creating some seams for him."

North Duplin hasn't lost a home playoff game since 2001 and is 25-24-1 all-time in the postseason since 1972.

Princeton is making its first playoff appearance since 2002.