11/06/08 — Rivalry Week on high school grid

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Rivalry Week on high school grid

By Ryan Hanchett and Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 6, 2008 1:46 PM

The late Ronald Reagan lived in the White House. The Chicago Bears were the reigning Super Bowl Champions. "We Built This City" by Starship was the No. 1 song on the Billboard Top 40 charts.

The year was 1985.

And it was the last time Princeton topped archrival Rosewood on the gridiron.

"I think the kids know about how long it's been," said Bulldawgs head coach Russell Williamson. "I haven't talked about it. I really don't care what happened last year, or 20 years ago, I just want the kids to be focused."

The Eagles have concentrated on focus and preparation in their camp too.

"We have had three good days, and (today) we plan on finalizing our game plan," said Rosewood head coach Robert Britt. "I think we have gained some confidence in our offense over the last two games. We still need to create big plays."

Rosewood (2-8 overall) has won 22 consecutive meetings in the 36-game series, which started in 1972. Princeton (3-7) has the better overall record this season, but the teams are an identical 1-3 in Class 1-A Carolina Conference play.

Each team endured lopsided losses last Friday.

"We had a rough game on Friday, and I think that knocked us down a little bit," said Williamson of a 60-0 thrashing by Ayden-Grifton. "We had played four pretty good games before that, so hopefully we can get back to what we were doing well."

As it is every season, the Eagles-Dawgs matchup is sure to be a slugfest.

"I think it's two even teams that both think they have a chance to pick up a win," said Williamson. "The weather is supposed be good, the crowd should be big and the atmosphere should be great."

Britt agreed.

"We know that the winner guarantees themselves a playoff spot and our kids would love to get there," said Britt. "We replaced 10 starters on defense from last year's team, and with such a young team it would be great to get them some postseason experience."

Despite an uncharacteristic "down" year in southern Duplin County, don't think Friday's contest between archrivals James Kenan and Wallace-Rose Hill doesn't mean anything.

The No. 1-ranked Tigers (10-0 overall, 4-0 Super Six 1-A) have their sights on the No. 1 seed for the eastern 1-AA (large-school) playoffs. The Dawgs (2-8, 0-4) haven't experienced a win since Sept. 8 and scored no more than 14 points in a single game this season.

The records and statistics mean nothing, says Tigers head coach Ken Avent Jr. A third straight conference championship and third consecutive unbeaten regular-season campaign is James Kenan's top priorities this week.

"I think it's definitely one of our first goals to win a conference championship," said Avent Jr. "It's very important to play good and win. There's no doubt both teams will be ready. I think it's a matter of making plays when it becomes game time and we can't get caught up in the rivalry."

Offensive balance has been played a major role in Kenan's success this season. Ten different players have carried the ball for the Tigers with four different backs recording over 40 carries. James Kenan has compiled just over 160 yards on the ground per game with Victor Parker leading the offense with 510 rushing yards.

Meanwhile, senior quarterback Shawon Darden has thrown for 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 60 percent of his passes.

Avent Jr. likes the balance.

"I don't think we do anything spectacular," said Avent Jr. "Shawon does a good job of throwing it and hopefully he'll be at full strength this week.

"The past couple of games we haven't turned it over on offense. We're not really concerned about one back getting 1,000 yards. We're just trying to keep them fresh."

Denied a chance to repeat as the Eastern Plains 2-A champion, Goldsboro (7-2-1) has taken out its frustration on its last three opponents. The Cougars escaped Greene Central, but beat Farmville Central and North Lenoir by a combined score of 95-12.

Against the Hawks, Goldsboro (3-1 EPC) piled up nearly 400 yards rushing. The offensive effort drew praise from head coach Eric Reid, who applauded his offensive line for much-improved blocking.

North Pitt (6-4, 3-1) enters the Cougars Den with second place on the line and a potential first-round home playoff game at stake. The Cougars also have to deal with distractions surrounding senior night and homecoming.

"We're going to stress that all week about blocking all the distractions out and focusing on the game," said Reid. "It doesn't help that it's homecoming, but maybe it does because nobody wants to lose homecoming.

"We're ready to put in a hard week of practice and hopefully we'll have a good outcome on Friday night around 10 o'clock."

The Panthers started the season 0-3, but have won six of their last seven games. Their spread offense concerns Reid, especially since it hung 29 points on state-ranked Tarboro last week.

"Their speed is spectacular," said Reid. "They do some good things on defense and on the offensive side of the ball they can run. Their speed helps them offensively and defensively.

"Defensively, we'll have to put some hats on the guys when they get the ball and keep hats on guys once they get it."