World of football turns upside down

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 10, 2003

Just a few ramblings from a disgruntled football fan.

Well, the grand illusion – aka the 2003 NCHSAA football play-offs – began this past Friday night where close to a thousand teams (okay, so I exaggerate, it was only 256 teams) launched their respective dreams of winning one of the state’s eight (a case where eight is more than enough) championships.

I wrote about this subject in last week’s column where I shared my thoughts on the fact that this once-revered post-season event has become as water-downed as a &uot;Seven-and-Seven&uot; at a strip club. Two hundred and fifty-six teams is overkill.

But the games, 128-strong, went on as pre-ordained by the NCHSAA. There were a few opening round upsets, but there were more than triple the amount of blowouts.

Take for example North Edgecombe’s 68-0 rout of Mattamuskeet. What was Mattamuskeet doing in the field anyway? Isn’t this the same squad that, with no disrespect to an outstanding Lawrence Academy squad, lost to an eight-man football team during the regular season?

Ditto for Columbia High School – a football juggernaut that battled powerful Creswell to a thrilling 0-0 stalemate during the regular season. The Wildcats (2-8-1) were held to minus 15 yards of total offense and lost to Roanoke, 56-0, in Friday’s play-off opener. This contest was such a nail-biter that game officials ran the clock continuously in the second half. Some fans reportedly asked for refunds, but the NCHSAA wouldn’t allow it, stating they desperately needed that $36 in order to offset the overhead in operating a post-season event of this magnitude.

Other &uot;razor-close&uot; games were also noted on Friday – Wallace Rose-Hill sneaking past Spring Creek, 63-0; Albemarle outlasting South Stokes, 62-0; Starmount rallying past an upstart North Lincoln squad, 86-13; Reidsville nudging past Central Davidson, 54-7; Owen edging Southern Guilford, 60-18; Parkland avoiding a big upset by getting past Lake Norman, 56-8; and Southern Durham managing to hold off Asheboro, 53-0.

Gee, I wonder what the bus ride home for those losers was like? Wonder if they stopped off at Mickey D’s? If they did, it’s a sure bet they didn’t order a Happy Meal.

On the other side of this wacky play-off formula were a few upsets. A trio of #2 seeds were ousted by #15 upstarts, including Hertford County’s shocking 38-22 loss to West Carteret; East Gaston edging Weddington, 40-36 (in the Class 3AA west bracket) and Northside’s 20-15 win at Camden (Class 1A east).

Speaking of Hertford County, where did the Bears disappear to down the stretch? I thought it was too early for hibernation. Many thought that following their run of four wins over an 11-day stretch (thanks to Hurricane Isabel) that the Bears were the team to beat in the Class 3-A eastern bracket. Everyone was eying an eastern state semifinal match-up between the #2 Bears and top-seeded West Craven on Nov. 21. However, West Carteret quarterback David Chambers had something to say about that. He ran coach Greg Watford’s triple-option attack to perfection, accounting for 224 yards of total offense and three TD’s in an upset of the Bears.

Bertie was even worse, surrendering 507 yards of total offense and eight TD’s in a 56-0 loss at home against Northeast Guilford. Bertie’s defense – one that nearly shutdown Hertford County one week earlier – had more holes in it than the body of Tupac, the late gangster rapper.

As a matter of fact, with the exception of Edenton (an 8-6, play-off opening win over Southeast Halifax), the entire Northeastern Coastal Conference contingent of play-off &uot;pretenders&uot; took it on the chin on Friday night. Manteo was beaten at Beddingfield (39-17) while both Currituck (25-14 vs. Northwood) and Northeastern (12-10 vs. Southern Vance) were eliminated. Playing in a weak conference normally doesn’t bode well come state play-off time – no matter how many teams are participating in this water-downed event.

NEWS FLASH – this just in to the News-Herald Sports Desk; rumor has it that Bertie and Hertford County will accept invitations to join the USA South Conference at the beginning of the 2005-06 athletic season. They will replace Christopher Newport University and Shenandoah University, both of whom are moving up the NCAA ladder from D-III to D-II.

The move was necessitated after Kentucky State and West Virginia State bolted the D-II ranks to join Conference USA, who lost members to the Big East Conference, who lost members to the ACC.

When will the madness end?