Bertie, HCHS brace for ‘Backyard Brawl’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 2004

WINDSOR – It’s dubbed the backyard brawl, but lately it hasn’t been much of a fight.

Six straight times Bertie has walked away from the brawl as the winner. Last year it was a 21-7 Falcon victory at Hertford County that cost the Bears the outright Northeastern Coastal Conference championship.

Despite each club having a tough season thus far, both first-year HCHS skipper Greg Watford and rookie Bertie coach Willie Roberson know their season will get a spark if they can win this final contest.

What’s on the line for the Bears? If Northeastern upsets Edenton, the Bears could share the league crown for the second consecutive year.

For the Falcons, it could be a trip to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs. Their current streak has extended six straight years and will end if the Falcons don’t defeat the Bears Friday night.

For Watford, the involvement in the streak has been from a distance. He spent those six years at West Carteret High School and Southern Vance High School.

&uot;It’s been tough for me,&uot; the Ahoskie High School graduate admitted. &uot;It tears at your heart. Hertford County football is a part of my life.&uot;

This year the coach will get more involved this year as he directs the 5-5 Bears into Falcon Stadium.

&uot;To have the chance to coach in this big rivalry game brings back memories,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s big. It’s been hard for me to contain my emotions, but the guys have been focused.&uot;

In order to end the Bertie win streak, Watford said he knew what they would have to do.

&uot;We have to contain Bertie’s skill people,&uot; Watford said. &uot;They have a tailback, quarterback and receiver that can hurt you.

&uot;Offensively, we have to try to control the defensive line,&uot; he continued. &uot;They are big and strong.&uot;

The coach also said his team would have to avoid turnovers and play well on special teams.

On the other sideline, Roberson has been a part of all six of those Bertie wins. He served as Defensive Coordinator of the Falcons during those six seasons.

He knows that a tough battle lies ahead for the 3-7 Falcons.

&uot;We’re playing down the streak,&uot; Roberson said. &uot;We’re playing for some pride right now. We want to finish the season upbeat – people remember how you finish more than how you start.&uot;

The good news for Bertie is they’re coming off their biggest win of the season – a 66-7 thumping of First Flight – in which the team set a school record for most points scored in a single game and largest margin of victory.

Still, Roberson said he knew they would have to be ready come Friday night.

&uot;We have to put together a game that we don’t make mistakes,&uot; the coach said. &uot;We have to hold on to the football and make smart plays.&uot;

Roberson also said that he knew the opposing team would be prepared.

&uot;Coach Watford will have his team ready,&uot; Roberson said. &uot;He’s a veteran coach and we know he will have his guys at the top of their game.&uot;

To grab the victory, Roberson said his team would have to play well on all fronts.

&uot;They do a good job of capitalizing on mistakes in special teams,&uot; Roberson insisted. &uot;They give the offense good field position.

&uot;They do a good job of misdirection and getting to the edge,&uot; he added. &uot;We have to break down and tackle soundly and we may have the opportunity to play with them.&uot;

The two coaches said they were looking for a solid effort from their squads.

&uot;Our guys are going to be up for it,&uot; Roberson said. &uot;A lot of the guys work there, some have friends and girlfriends at Hertford County High School.

&uot;I think they’ll play with their heart Friday night because they’ll be in Ahoskie Saturday morning and will want to hold their heads high,&uot; he added.

The Falcons and Bears will tangle at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night in Windsor.