Gates prepares for new, old foes

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GATESVILLE — It’s a season filled with new and old.

Gates County High School’s new varsity football schedule has a taste of the past with all six conference games and two of the non-league opponents. Still, the Red Barons will have the opportunity to square off with a pair of new opponents in 2011.

This year’s schedule will open with one of the newcomers to the Gates County schedule when they host Bertie High School on August 19.

“Bertie is new to the schedule,” Red Barons’ mentor Matt Biggy said. “Coach (Greg) Watford and I have known each other for quite a while and wanted to get on each other’s schedule. We’re looking forward to that game.”

After hosting Bertie, the Red Barons will welcome Perquimans High School to Eason’s Crossroads. The Pirates have been on the Gates County schedule for a couple of years.

Then, Gates will play at Pasquotank County High School.

“Both of those are good games and games that are close to home,” Biggy said. “Perquimans and Pasquotank each have good football teams.”

The final non-conference contest will come September 9 when the Red Barons welcome Atlantic Shores (Va.) to their home field.

“They actually posted some open dates on a website and some of them matched ours,” Biggy said. “With the change of the season this year, we had to make some adjustments to our schedule and it worked out for us to play them.”

As he looked at the four nonleague games, Biggy said all of them present unique challenges for Gates.

“I think all four have potential to be real tests for us,” the coach insisted. “Bertie is going to be a good football team. Perquimans has a couple of kids with a lot of speed and Coach (T.J.) Worrell always has them ready to play.

“Pasquotank is a team we played to the final second last year and beat them for the first time,” he said. “Then with Atlantic Shores, they are a mystery to us. They will be tough to prepare for.”

After the nonconference contest, the Red Barons will turn their attention to defending last year’s Tar-Roanoke Conference championship.

They open the league slate on September 16 when they travel to Weldon. That will be followed by home dates with Northampton County High School – East (Sept. 23) and Northampton County High School – West (Sept. 30).

Southeast Halifax will then travel to Gates County on October 14 followed by late-season trips to North Edgecombe and KIPP Pride.

“The conference is going to be classic Tar-Roanoke, tough,” Biggy said. “The teams will be loaded with tough, physical kids. That’s true every year.

“We open up at Weldon and that is always a tough place to play,” he said. “We have to play there and at North Edgecombe, both of which are tough places to go.

“East is going to be very fast and they are going to run the option, which is a tough defensive assignment for us,” he said. “West is an unknown right now with them looking for a new coach.”

He said Southeast Halifax will be like they always are – big, fast and tough.

“KIPP Pride is a mystery with Coach (Diego) Hasty now leading that program,” Biggy said. “He is an outstanding coach and KIPP has always had a lot of talent, but never put it together well. If he gets that thing going, they’re going to be dangerous.”

Looking at his own team, Biggy said his team’s strength would come from a small group of seniors.

“The group is small, but they are very good football players,” he said. “If it was as big a senior class as I had last year, we wouldn’t have any worries, but it’s a small group.”

He said the underclassmen also were good athletes, especially the sophomore class.

As for concerns, the youth of the team is Biggy’s main concern.

“We’re going to be very, very young,” he said. “We have the small group of seniors and an even small junior class. We’re going to count on sophomores to play and maybe even a couple of freshmen.

“They have the ability, but when you’re that young it is difficult to adjust to the competitiveness of a Friday game as opposed to playing on Thursday,” he said.

Biggy said his team will be ready.

“We’ll work hard, play hard and hope good things happen,” he said.