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‘Canes eye Eastern title

CHOCOWINITY – The sequel promises to be better than the original.

As they enter tomorrow (Friday) night’s Eastern 1-A finals, Northampton County High School – West will once again star as the big, rugged bruiser in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.

This week’s foe is fast, mobile Southside High School, winners of 14 straight.

The Seahawks are ranked number one in the 1-A Eastern bracket and the Hurricanes are ranked second.

&uot;I feel pretty good so far,&uot; fourth-year Northampton-West coach Diego Hasty said. &uot;Yesterday we had a pretty good practice and they seemed to be focused.&uot;

For his part, veteran Southside coach DeWayne Kellum said his team was looking forward to a tough contest with the Hurricanes, but was doing so without several starters who were missing due to injury.

One of the Seahawks who has been the subject of some debate is running back Joe King, who is nursing an ankle injury.

The Washington Daily News reported earlier this week that King, a senior standout, would play, but other media sources have reported that Kellum was almost certain King would not play.

Either way, the Seahawks will be facing a different kind of opponent than they are used to, according to their coach.

&uot;We don’t see a lot of wishbone power,&uot; Kellum said. &uot;Probably the closest thing we have seen is Weldon last week, only West has a bunch more size and athletes.&uot;

Kellum said the Hurricanes offensive front is a concern for his club.

&uot;Offensively, their front line is probably the biggest and best we’ve seen,&uot; he said. &uot;They have a lot more speed in the backfield than the last time we saw them.

&uot;Defensively, they are quick like we are and they get aggressive and get after the ball,&uot; he added.

Hasty said the concern for West was trying to limit a big-play offense.

&uot;We have to try to contain them,&uot; he said. &uot;They live off big plays. They have backs with big-play capability that can turn small plays into huge plays.

&uot;We have to handle the line of scrimmage,&uot; he added. &uot;It’s going to be the same as last week in some ways; our size against their speed.&uot;

The offensive line the coaches have referred to is led by Joe Huff, a highly regarded tackle, and center Desmond Roberts. Also along the line are Trovis Banks, Olandas Powell and Cedric Lassiter. Tight ends Aljerald Butcher and Marquette Branch are also key in the Hurricanes’ blocking scheme.

Another key both coaches focused on was turnovers. Kellum said the team that didn’t turn the ball over would have a huge advantage.

That hasn’t been the case with the Hurricanes in recent weeks as they have had at least three lost fumbles in the first half of wins against Roanoke and Manteo.

&uot;I told our kids we have to come out and play a better first half,&uot; Hasty stressed. &uot;We can’t turn the ball over an give them easy chances because Southside will make us pay for them.&uot;

If they could get an early turnover, it would be key for the Seahawks’ gameplan.

&uot;I have a feeling it’s going to be us trying to get points on the board early and prevent them from pounding on us,&uot; Kellum said. &uot;We need to execute well and take what they give us.&uot;

Defensively, Southside must prevent having West go on 80-yard drives and wearing them down, according to the coach.

While Kellum is busy trying to prevent that from happening, it’s exactly what Hasty has in mind.

&uot;We’re going to come out and run behind Joe (Huff) and try to mix in some counters and hopefully get them into some one-on-one coverage,&uot; Hasty said. &uot;If we can be consistent Friday night, we’ll give them a good game.&uot;

Neither coach was willing to let homefield advantage settle the contest, though both admitted it was crucial.

Kellum said the Seahawks like to play at home and set that as a goal during their regular season.

&uot;You can carry people with you on the road,&uot; he said. &uot;The advantage it gives us is being in our own environment.&uot;

Hasty said he would have loved to have Southside &uot;come play in our mud&uot; but said his team had to focus on the task at hand and not let the playing field dictate their play.

Speed versus power II will be live Friday night between Chocowinity and Aurora at Southside High School. Game time is 7:30 p.m.