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First-year Beddingfield High varsity football head coach James Ward needed a few hours to grasp the magnitude of his team’s 10-7 victory at SouthWest Edgecombe last Friday evening that produced a three-way tie for the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference championship.
Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster didn’t realize how damaging playing two of the state’s best 4-A teams could be when it came time for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to seed teams for the playoffs over the weekend.
The playoffs, with eight championships at stake in four classifications, kick off Friday evening with Southern Nash, Bedddingfield, Fike, SouthWest Edgecombe and Greene Central representing The Wilson Times readership area.
In 3-A, Big East Conference champion Southern Nash welcomes Fayetteville Westover; and Fike, the Big East runner-up, plays host to Triton. The Big East also landed third-place Rocky Mount, which is the guest of Sanford High.
In 2-A, the big positive for Beddingfield is getting to play at home in the opening round. However, the negative is that Farmville Central, an Eastern Plains member, will be providing the opposition.
The loss to Beddingfield resulted in SouthWest sharing Eastern Plains supremacy with the Bruins and Nash Central. However, the Cougars will still be at home the opening round against Hertford County.
Greene Central not only travels but the opponent is Eastern Carolina Conference rival Kinston. The Rams lost a tough decision to Kinston during the regular season en route to a 7-4 record. Greene Central must also again deal with a first-round jinx that has been prominent during the tenure of head coach Allen Wooten.
PHONE STARTED RINGING
Regarding Beddingfield’s conquest of SouthWest, Ward began to understand its significance with the first telephone call at 3 a.m. Saturday.
Conference officials anticipated the possibility of a first-place deadlock and, during the drawing early in the week, SouthWest drew No. 1, Nash Central No. 2 and Beddingfield No. 3.
The phone kept ringing and Ward became aware of the possibility of Nash Central falling into the 2-AA group and knew the slight possibility existed that the same fate might await SouthWest.
However, Beddingfield and SouthWest were grouped 2-A. Thus, the winner of their head-to-head confrontation would be considered the conference’s No. 1 representative in the 2-A playoffs.
In the preliminary pairings, the Bruins were seeded No. 11 among 16 East Region qualifiers and were headed to Kinston. Farmville Central was seeded No. 10 despite losing to Beddingfield.
Not only was a mistake discovered, but East Bladen, said Ward, was added to the bracket. But Warren County, a team with a 7-4 record, was omitted.
More phone calls.
The victory against SouthWest vaulted Beddingfield to the No. 4 seed, while SouthWest wound up No. 6.
“When we met Thursday to do the drawing, all of this never crossed my mind,” Ward said. “I wasn’t thinking about playoff seeding. But I felt like we could beat SouthWest and it really did make a big difference. And it almost could have gotten bigger (if SouthWest had been grouped in AA). I was sitting on Cloud Nine.”
Ward is not especially pleased with opposing a conference foe in the opening round and, if victorious, his Bruins will likely encounter No. 5 Wallace-Rose Hill, the 2016 1-AA champion. At least, Ward reasoned, Wallace-Rose Hill would have to come to Beddingfield.
“You don’t want to have to go to the Dog Pound (Wallace-Rose Hill’s home),” Ward assured.
The head coach expressed that his Bruins must continue to tackle well and polish their passing game.
“Regardless, you’ve got to win five games,” he contended, “and Beddingfield can be a tough team in the playoffs.”
AS HIGH AS NO. 2
Head coach Jonathan Cobb is convinced SouthWest (9-2) could have been as high as the No. 2 seed if it had ended the regular season with a win against the Bruins.
“We made too many mistakes,” Cobb reviewed, “and we paid a price for losing. We moved down a few. But after (Friday) night, (No. 6) is about what I expected. But we have at least one home playoff game.”
No. 11 Hertford County enters with a 6-5 record and Cobb compares the Bears with (no kidding) the Bruins in that they rely heavily upon a stellar running back and a gifted wide receiver.
“They will be a tough matchup for us at home,” he contended.
The Cougars attempt to avert a heart-breaking loss that befell them last season.
““We have to go back to work and back to the things that have made us successful,” Cobb challenged. “Physically, we’re in decent shape for this time of the year, and we’re a good football team when we don’t make mistakes.”
ARGUMENT IN VAIN
The only loss for Southern Nash (10-1) was to 4-A unbeaten Wake Forest. The Firebirds posted a 38-28 triumph against Green Hope, another strong 4-A team. In the 4-AA bracket, Wake Forest is seeded No. 1 and Green Hope (9-2) at No. 2. Both drew first-round byes.
When the pairings were finalized Saturday, Southern Nash emerged the No. 3 seed in 3-A. No. 2 seemed justified.
“I thought we made a good argument that we should be No. 2 (behind 11-0 Western Alamance),” head coach Brian Foster commented. “Maybe we shouldn’t have played who we played. But that’s why we did it and we played Wake Forest as well as anybody. Havelock (the No. 2 seed at 10-1) is mighty good and you’ve got to play somebody.”
Perhaps, light flickers at the end of the proverbial tunned.
The Firebirds are not faced with the 2016 predicament of battling conference foe Northern Nash in the first round and then losing to Rocky Mount, another Big East rival, in the second round.
“I’m glad we don’t have to do that again,” Foster assured.
Foster added he has no scouting report on Westover (4-7).
Of his Firebirds, he added: “The kids have played well all year and given good effort. I hope they keep it up. The starters have not played much the last two weeks and should be fresh. Physically, we are as good as we’ve been since the first week.
“We’ve got to stay healthy and make our own breaks.”
FIKE AT HOME
Fike landed a home game with the No. 8 seed and four consecutive wins have upped its record to 8-3. One of the Golden Demons’ nonconference wins was by a 34-31 margin at No. 9-seeded Triton (6-5) on a last-second field goal by senior Walker Gliarmis.
The Demons of head coach Tom Nelson unsuccessfully played on the road in the opening round last season.
Nelson still frets about the Demons’ early-season loss to 2-A Kinston, and contends, if victorious against the Vikings and upping its record to 9-2, Fike could have possibly been seeded as high as No. 5 in the 3-A group.
But the No. 8 spot means the Demons will play at home the first round and, if victorious, will likely draw No. 1 Western Alamance (11-0) in the second round.
“We are tickled to have a home game and excited to still be playing,” Nelson expressed.
“I hope we come out Friday and play well. We have been playing better and, hopefully, we can survive and advance.”
Fike hopes the second 2017 Fike-Triton outcome is similar, but Nelson cautions: “Triton is a tough first-round game. But usually in eight-vs.-nine matchups, the teams are pretty close. We put in a few different wrinkles offensively and, hopefully, we won’t fall way behind early.”
The Demons brace for a traditional wing-T offense.
“They run the football and go with the play-action pass,” Nelson noted. “They do a good job.”
Physically, said the head coach, the Demons are dinged up, but he reasons: “It’s that time of the year.”
However, senior quarterback Jaelynn Melton, who missed the Hunt game with a knee injury, is expected to play.
Regarding the seeding, Nelson is relieved Fike did not wind up No. 9 as earlier projected.
“The 3-A bracket is pretty tough,” he declared. “It’s like that every year. We’re not surprised. We thought we would be somewhere between No. 6 and No. 9.