On Football

Heart, desire always tough to judge

November 17, 2013 

  • 1AA Playoffs Princeton (9-3) at James Kenan (11-0)

    Friday, 7:30

    Need to know: It’s a rematch of a week five clash which seems like seasons and not just a couple of months ago now. Kenan won that battle, 35-22 on Sept. 27, and hasn’t had a decision closer than 25 points since. Princeton hasn’t lost since its last trip to Tiger land, winning six straight and the Bulldogs haven’t been threatened in that stretch either, winning by at least four touchdowns in each of those games.

    Kenan jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead but was outscored 22-21 by Princeton the rest of the way. The Bulldogs had their best passing game this season against the Tigers with Michael Wooten throwing for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Johnny Frasier – the leading rusher in the area – was his most effective target with 154 yards receiving. Kenan had two runners go over 100 yards in that one with JaQuan Williams running for 151 yards. The Tigers averaged more than 6 yards a rush that night so Princeton has to do a better job against the run.

    Both teams know the kind of speed they’ll be playing against, having seen it before in person this season so don’t be surprised if the big plays on both sides that were there in September (10 players had gains of 12 yards or longer) diminish. So that makes sustaining drives more important on both sides, especially for Princeton, which will probably use more players both ways (on offense and defense) than it has needed to of late.

    Best win: Princeton, 41-13 over Lakewood on Nov. 2; Kenan, 19-18 over Wallace-Rose Hill on Aug. 30

    The winner meets: Lakewood (8-4) or Whiteville (10-2)

Last week, I wrote about how three teams had far from ideal first-round playoff opponents waiting for them on Friday night. Of course, all three of those teams: Clayton (at Durham Hillside), Southeast Raleigh (at New Bern) and Wake Forest Heritage (at Scotland County), promptly jumped out to leads in their respective games.

Just goes to show you never underestimate anybody when it playoff time comes. Heart and desire are the two hardest factors to judge in high school athletics and they can’t be measured on paper analyses of games.

Sure, all three of those teams eventually bowed out with losses Friday night but their efforts reminded us of the role desire plays in the games we love to watch.

Big game Comets: One of the lasting impressions Clayton first-year head coach Randy Pinkowski was left with from his 2013 Comets’ squad was its ability to step up against the better opponents, namely Durham Hillside and Garner.

“This has been a group that has been a little under-manned all year,” Pinkowski said after the loss to Durham Hillside. “But they played with everybody. They had a big game against Garner, a big game tonight. … The Comets will live to fight another day, but we’re not hanging our heads. We’re just taking a little siesta until we can get back in the weight room and get back out here next year.”

Pirates will miss senior class: Corinth Holders saw its season end with a first- round 3AA playoff loss to West Brunswick Friday night. The Pirates will lose nearly two dozen players to graduation. And Pirates coach Barry Honeycutt said the Class of 2014’s foundation building would not be forgotten.

“We’re saying goodbye to 20-plus guys who, a lot of them, have been starters for us since they were sophomores,’ Honeycutt said. “But we’re looking forward to working with a group of 30-plus sophomores on the varsity level, guys who were part of a very successful junior varsity group this season. We’ve got some talented juniors coming back as well.”

Carolina 1A strength: The Carolina 1A Conference has rarely been known for its depth of solid teams in football. Sure, there have been stellar individual teams in the league each season of late, but no real depth.

That changed a bit when all three of the top finishing teams in the league won easily in the first round of the 1AA playoffs: James Kenan, Princeton and Lakewood.

Kenan and Princeton, of course, meet on the field this Friday, so at least one team from the league will be gone. Meanwhile, Lakewood meets a Whiteville team that’s highly regarded.

Lee Montgomery contributed.

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