11/20/08 — James Kenan faces another familiar foe

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James Kenan faces another familiar foe

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 20, 2008 1:46 PM

WARSAW -- Let's play two.

Of course baseball Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks, to whom those famous words are attributed, was not referring to James Kenan's football team.

But the sentiment certainly fits the Tigers' 2008 playoff run.

For the second consecutive week, top-seeded James Kenan will see a familiar opponent when it runs onto Bill Taylor Field on Friday evening.

After racing past county rival Wallace-Rose Hill 37-0 in the opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA (large-school) playoffs last week, head coach Ken Avent Jr. called the team's second meeting in seven days "a strange first" in his career.

Even though a month has passed since the Tigers' last matchup with Super Six Conference member Midway -- this week's postseason opponent -- Avent Jr. is still uneasy about facing a rival for a second time in one season.

"We know what kind of athletes they have and we know it is going to take our best effort to win," said Avent Jr. "The last time we played it was during a monsoon, so we can't put much stock in what we saw that night from either team."

The Raiders (11-1 overall) enter the second round on the heels of a 14-7 win over Carolina Conference power North Johnston. Coach Paul Hall and his blue-clad crew will be looking to avenge their only defeat of the year.

Midway employs the two-quarterback system in its run-first offensive scheme. Senior Gibby Allen and junior Jonathan Poole split snaps under center. In the win over North Johnston, Poole notched the team's only completion for a nine-yard touchdown.

While the potent Raider ground game presents its share of unique challenges, Avent Jr. believes that his team has more than just a home field advantage. After reaching the state finals in 2006 and winning a championship in 2007, the Tigers know what they must do to play their best football during the winter months.

"Experience is a factor ... it certainly can't hurt us," said Avent Jr. "Our kids have been here before and they know what it takes week-in and week-out to prepare for these extra games."

One place where experience has greatly improved is the Tigers' offense. Senior Shawon Darden has seized the leader role at quarterback and proved to be the difference in the teams' previous meeting.

Darden (6-foot-1, 165 pounds) rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown. He also completed two passes for 70 yards, including a 63-yard scoring strike to Demetrius Vann.