11/08/12 — North Edgecombe, Princeton's next opponent, starting to discover identity

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North Edgecombe, Princeton's next opponent, starting to discover identity

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 8, 2012 1:53 PM

There is no better lesson learned in any sport than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss contains its own seed and provides its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.

The North Edgecombe football team is a perfect example.

Three of eight seniors on the roster have any playing experience. Freshmen and sophomores have been thrown into the fray and expected to carry on the winning tradition the Warriors established through former head coaches Richard Byrd, Raymond Cobb and Danny Ward.

They found their stride midway through the season and prevailed in two of their final three regular-season contests.

But they took another hit the opening week of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A (small-school) playoffs. Starting quarterback Clifton Dickens drew a 10-day suspension, which forced the coaching staff to put tight end/linebacker Rontarius Graham under center.

Graham participated through one day of walk-throughs and then led North Edgecombe to a home playoff triumph over Tar-Roanoke Conference foe Weldon.

"Rontarius played quarterback in middle school, so it's not like he didn't have any experience and that's why we went to him," first-year North head coach Keith Parisher said. "They have worked hard to get where we are at now, stuck through the ups and downs, and we've been able to keep them at an even keel. It's been a good experience coaching them."

The fourth-seeded Warriors (5-5 overall) entertain eighth-seeded Princeton (3-8) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. North Edgecombe has won 10 consecutive postseason contests against Carolina Conference schools and 13 overall in 17 tries since 1988.

It's the first-ever playoff meeting between the two teams.

Turnovers proved fatal to the Warriors in their losses this season. Parisher said his team must minimize its mistakes and keep the chains moving in its T-formation misdirection offense.

A pair of 300-pound guards anchor the offensive line and block for a corps of talented backs -- Antoine Pittman, Travonte Collins, Jarius Collins and Quantravis Harris. Pittman and Travonte Collins combined for 170 yards and four touchdowns against Weldon.

"They are finally starting to understand the offense and defense a little better," Parisher said. "We changed a few things around to run the old offense (T formation) we ran when Raymond was here. We've got average speed, but have gotten a lot faster in the last couple of weeks when I brought up my JV backs."

North Edgecombe will throw a variety of defensive fronts at Princeton in hopes of slowing down its passing attack. The Bulldogs have gained some confidence through the air, which has opened up the running game behind sophomore Johnny Frasier.

Parisher noted that Frasier and quarterback Michael Wooten have good athleticism. He added the Dogs' defense appears to swarm around the ball well.