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Undefeated Big East Conference champion Southern Nash and Eastern Plains Conference champ SouthWest Edgecombe each landed East Region No. 2 seeds in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs that kick off Friday night.
The Firebirds claimed the No. 2 East 3-A seed for the second consecutive year — again yielding the top seed to Havelock, the 2017 3-A runner-up.
SouthWest is bracketed No. 2 in the East in the 2-AA division.
Southern Nash and the Cougars are joined by Beddingfield, Charles B. Aycock and Greene Central in representing The Wilson Times readership area in the postseason.
CBA, the No. 15 3-A East seed, is matched against Southern Nash in the opening round.
On the 2-A scene, Eastern Plains runner-up Beddingfield missed a home game by one slot and, as the No. 9 seed, travels to No. 8 East Bladen. The Bruins are the top 2-A seed from the Eastern Plains.
Greene Central of the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference, as the No. 14 seed, visits undefeated (11-0) South Columbus, the No. 3 seed.
FIREBIRDS NOT NO. 1
The fact Southern Nash (9-0) is again situated at No. 2 is news. Projections before the pairings were announced by the NCHSAA on Saturday morning listed the Firebirds at No. 1.
Why didn’t it happen?
“I can’t tell you that,” Firebirds head coach Brian Foster answered. “I thought we had a better chance last year. But you’ve got to play somewhere and it is what it is.”
CBA, said head coach Steve Brooks, was expecting to oppose Havelock.
“I’m confused,” Brooks expressed. “Everything we’ve seen through the rankings, Southern Nash was No. 1 and Havelock No. 2. I don’t really understand the process. But at this point, we’re happy to be in the dance.”
However, Havelock moved past Southern Nash in the final adjusted MaxPreps rankings released following the conclusion of the regular season.
Beddingfield head coach James Ward doesn’t believe the decision not to reschedule and play 3-A Jacksonville Northside last Friday hurt his team’s chances of claiming a home game.
“What would have helped was to win our conference,” Ward declared. “Everything was there for us in our backyard. It’s very disappointing. But if you don’t take care of business, that’s what happens.”
FIREBIRDS BEAT UP
Foster described his Firebirds, 72-50 victors at Northern Nash last Friday night, as “beat up.” He hinted defensive decisions are forthcoming and more players may be required to play offense and defense.
Although immensely proud, Foster insists he can’t explain his offense’s ability to light up the scoreboard at a clip of 57.9 points per game. He is, however, concerned about a defense that is allowing 24.4 points per outing.
“We have good running backs --- that helps,” he noted, “and our scheme is a little bit different. The offensive line has done a really good job, considering we replaced everybody. I am really proud of them. Everybody is giving us what they’ve got.”
Foster notes CBA possesses an effective running back and warns the Falcons won’t be worried about the Southern Nash name as the result of playing such teams as undefeated South Central and D.H. Conley in the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference.
“We worry about us and what we do,” Foster concluded.
CBA SURGES LATE
CBA surged into the playoffs by winning three of its last four games to hike its record to 5-6. The postseason appearance is the Falcons’ first since 2015.
“We are just thrilled and happy to be in it,” Brooks said, “with the seasons we’ve had the last two years. Nobody gave a lot of belief in this team. They have fought through so many things; I am so proud of my kids.”
CBA anticipated combating a Havelock team that will spread the field. Instead, it’s visiting a Southern Nash squad that plays power football in the variation of a double-wing scheme.
“They are going to hit us in the mouth with a lot of misdirection,” Brooks cautioned. “At this point, there’s nothing else our kids wouldn’t rather have.
“It would be a challenge either way, but it’s a challenge of which we’re not going to back down.”
Beddingfield returns to the 2-A playoffs with an 8-2 record. The Bruins, ousted by eventual state champion Wallace-Rose Hill in the second round in 2017, oppose an East Bladen team that possesses a 9-2 worksheet and is playoff-seasoned.
A positive mentioned by Ward is that his Bruins play more focused on the road — where they are undefeated this season. Thesecond-year head coach sees his team’s involvement in several big-stage games as another plus.
Still, Ward believes Beddingfield was victimized by the adjusted MaxPreps rankings. He reasons, if teams were seeded by overall records, the Bruins would be in the top eight.
“I thought the record helped out more than the power rankings,” Ward contended. “It kind of sucks because, at one point, were looking high at being No. 2 or 3. We were one of the big dogs.”
Instead, Beddingfield, braced to travel, visits an East Bladen team that will “probably play” smash-mouth” football in a wishbone attack.
“They are coming out of a pretty tough conference and are in the playoffs every year,” Ward said.
The Bruins have benefited from the open week by getting players healthy, working with personnel in different spots and providing quality reps for newcomers expected to see considerable action.
HONORED TO BE NO. 2
SouthWest also earned a No. 2 seed in 2015 and responded with a trip to the East finals. The Cougars bowed in the second round last season.
Head coach Jonathan Cobb’s squad moves to 2-AA, and its first test is a Washington team against which SouthWest scrimmaged this season.
“They are well-coached,” Cobb assessed. “They are a tricky opponent and we have our work cut out for us.”
SouthWest is coming off a 35-14 loss to undefeated 1-AA powerhouse and archrival Tarboro. The Cougars trailed 21-0 at halftime.
“We played hard,” Cobb reviewed. “The kids gave everything they’ve got. We didn’t make the plays necessary to have a chance to win — especially in the first half. We played great in the second half. We learned a lot. We hope to use that game as a tool to help us get better.”
Cobb is understandably excited with the No. 2 seed.
“We are honored,” he declared. “Hopefully, we will stay alive and play on. We certainly have an opportunity in being at home and by being in big-time games at the end of the season.
“I feel pretty good. If we can continue to work hard and get better, we can accomplish great things.”
Confronting another undefeated foe is nothing new to Greene Central (6-5). Two of the Rams’ losses were to unbeaten foes in Kinston and South Central. Greene Central dropped three games by a total of nine points.
But Greene Central slumped with losses in three of its last four games.