Weather has led to one less day of preparation ahead of the second round of the N.C. High School football playoffs with inclement weather expected for Friday around kickoff.
The tough challenge of preparing for postseason games got that much tougher with one less day for teams to lay out a game plan for their foreign opponents.
While North Moore takes on a team that it hadn’t played this season, second-round Pender is a familiar team for the Mustangs. Pender has been thought of a lot since the teams played last season in the third round of the playoffs in Robbins.
“I’ve probably got 20 hours in Hudl right now, just over the weekend. It’s been nuts the amount of film we’ve watched,” North Moore coach Andrew Carrouth said. “They’re a really good football team. I know their record is a little different than it was last year, but they were a team last year that went on the road through the playoffs and they got hot.”
No. 2 North Moore (11-0) is coming off a 53-7 win over Lejeune at home in the first round, and No. 18 Pender (6-5) is back on the road once again after defeating Bertie, 22-14, last Friday thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown. Kickoff for the game is set for Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The Patriots bring the same offensive attack with their option look, led by senior running back Kelvin Robinson, and senior quarterback Atavion Pickett. Much like the Mustangs, the duo each have surpassed 1,000 yards rushing this season, with Pickett rushing for 19 scores and Robinson scoring 18 times.
“They are a team that can get hot again and be really, really good,” Carrouth said. “The option is always difficult to be able to stop. It’s always about assignment football. It’s the first time we’ve seen an option team this year, so we have to be really sound as far as what we do defensively.”
In the win over Bertie in the first round, Pender scored a pair of rushing touchdowns, and Pickett had a 65-yard touchdown pass in the win.
When the brackets were released, the focus of a potential second-round rematch with the Patriots was there for the Mustangs. Carrouth wanted to see how his team responded when the matchup was locked in.
“Every vibe that I’m getting from our guys is that they’re excited, and they’re hungry and they want a rematch,” Carrouth said. “Each week where last year’s team had an opponent that gave us fits or gave us trouble, this year’s group hasn’t shied away from that.”
Last year’s team was defeated twice, once in the regular season to Cummings, and then the playoff loss to Pender. With one loss rectified, the focus has since shifted to the other team that last beat the Mustangs.
“I’m ready. I’m ready to beat them. About like I was for Cummings,” senior quarterback Carson Brady said.
North Moore’s offense last year was stifled to 12 points, with turnovers and lack of control at the line of scrimmage resulting in the defeat. Carrouth expects the same approach from Pender’s defense again.
“They’re going to line up as many guys on the line of scrimmage as they can, they’re going to bring them like crazy and say, ‘I bet you can’t block us all,’” Carrouth said. “We’ve got to take body shots, body shots, body shots. Body shots don’t knock people out in the first and second round. This is not going to be a game that’s won in the first and second quarter. It’s going to be won in the third and fourth quarter.”
The winner of this matchup takes on either East Columbus or Perquimans in the third round.
Pinecrest Takes on Jordan
After claiming its first playoff win in over 15 years, Jordan visits Pinecrest for its second road playoff contest in a row.
The Patriots built momentum in the first round, mounting a comeback after falling behind early to keep their season going.
“It was just the belief that we can get in any kind of situation and we can come out of it as a team. We got down 14-0 and the kids didn’t blink, there was no finger pointing,” Pinecrest coach Nick Eddins said. “At this point of the season, it’s believing that you can do it.”
No. 7 Pinecrest (9-2) and No. 23 Jordan (5-6) kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Jordan defeated Jack Britt on the road, 23-20, and has won four of its last five contests, after losing five games in a row midway through the season. The Falcons are a relatively young team with underclassmen athletes.
The Falcons do play with a smaller than average lineup with 40 players listed on MaxPreps, and several players playing both sides of the ball.
“I think we’re in really good shape as a team. The coaches give us a good exercise regimen that keeps you in good shape. We can run and speed up if necessary, run the ball and get to the ball as fast as we can,” senior offensive lineman Gabe Richmond said.
The top rusher for Jordan, sophomore Amareon Blue has scored 21 times on the ground to go with more than 1,400 yards rushing, and sophomore Omaris McMiller Jr., leads the receivers in receiving yards and touchdowns.
“They’ve got a lot of kids that play both ways, but they play hard. They’ve got good size on the offensive and defensive lines, and they’ve got some good athletes at linebacker that run around really well, and some good defensive backs,” Eddins said. “They’ve got a couple of really good running backs, and a quarterback that does a really good job of getting the ball where it needs to go.”
Blue leads the teams in tackles for loss with 11, is second in total stops and has two interceptions this year. Senior Isaac Greer has more than 100 tackles this season and senior Josiah Stevens has a team-high three interceptions.
Pinecrest is coming off a 42-35 win over Laney in the first round, where the Patriot defense adjusted to slow down a balanced offensive attack from Laney. The offensive side of the ball focused on the run over the final three quarters and finished with 315 yards as a team.
“It’s just working as a team. As offensive linemen, you’ve got to trust the person next to you to get the job done,” Richmond said. “I trust the guard beside me and the guard trusts the center beside him.”
Pinecrest has won the last three contests with Jordan, including a 27-0 win over the Falcons in the first round of the 2009 playoffs.
The furthest this senior class for Pinecrest has advanced was to the second round in a condensed COVID-19 spring 2021 season. Now already to that point, the seniors have now stepped into major roles with the team and hope to set a benchmark for the program in the coming weeks.
“I think that now that we are older, some of the guys have been playing varsity for a while, and we can see how our opinions of football have changed, and how we’ve grown with it,” Richmond said. “You start to realize that this is it with your senior season. That being said, there’s all the more fun with it. We are going to go out trying as hard as you can.”
The winner of this game will face off with either New Bern or Hoggard in the third round.
Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.