11/27/08 — Preview of Goldsboro-Tarboro matchup

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Preview of Goldsboro-Tarboro matchup

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 27, 2008 1:46 PM

Say this much about Jeff Craddock. The fifth-year Tarboro High head doesn't shy away from strong competition, but he doesn't like seeing a good -- and dangerous -- football team twice.

He's definitely not pleased to face Goldsboro a second time with a regional championship berth on the line.

"They're a physical, strong football team and we knew that the first time we played them," said Craddock, who played on a national championship team at Division III power Mount Union College.

"They've only gotten better since then and are playing great football right now. It's tough to beat a good team twice, so that's what we've got to do."

Tarboro won the first meeting, 40-6.

"We didn't execute ... plain and simple in the first game," said Goldsboro head coach Eric Reid. "We had some early turnovers that got us down and we never recovered from it."

But Reid also vividly remembers the Cougars avenging a loss in the 2002 playoffs. After getting humbled by West Craven in regular-season play, Goldsboro returned the favor with a thrilling overtime win.

Reid shared that memory with his team before practice Monday afternoon.

"That year, we were more hungrier that second game than the first," recalled Reid of the third-round triumph. "I hope the kids can feed off (the Tarboro loss). But, we've definitely got our hands full again."

The top-seeded Vikings (12-1 overall) carry a seven-game win streak into the contest, while the fifth-seeded Cougars (10-2-1) have won six straight since losing to Craddock's club.

Quarterback Jeremy Bellamy directs Tarboro's straight-T, misdirection offense, which averages 42.7 points a game. He spreads the wealth among tailbacks Brandon Dozier and Kevin Staton; and fullbacks Damarius Harper, Chris Lane and Jamal Farmer.

Craddock says his backs are "carbon copies of each other." Staton is the tallest at 5-foot-11 and each player weighs between 175 to 185 pounds. That speed, combined with a strong offensive line, has made stopping the "T" a daunting task for opposing defensive coordinators.

"We must be aware of the counters and traps, and stay within the assignments on defense," said Reid. "Their backs do a beautiful job of carrying out the fakes. Everybody has an assignment on defense and if they carry it out 90 percent of the time, we can be successful."

Flip to the other side and Tarboro is almost looking into a mirror.

The Cougars have a three-headed monster in the backfield -- Freddie Jones, Andre Montgomery and A.J. Parker. The trio has combined for nearly 4,000 yards and 40-plus touchdowns in 13 games.

Quarterback Tyrelle Jackson is a threat and threw two touchdown passes in last week's second-round upset of perennial 2-A power Bunn.

Tarboro allows just eight points a game.

"We have been playing well and have a stingy defense," said Craddock. "I'm sure there haven't been too many changes for Goldsboro, but maybe a wrinkle here and there. With them, what you see is what you get and you better strap it on because they're going to bring it to you."

Craddock and Reid agree that turnovers will undoubtedly factor into the outcome. Tarboro built a 21-0 lead off Goldsboro miscues in the first meeting Oct. 10.

"We have to eliminate the big plays and they have to do the same thing," said Craddock. "I have no doubt it's going to be a great high school football game."

The Vikings haven't played for an eastern championship since 1998. The Cougars last appeared in a regional final in 2002.