2011 gridiron dreams start Friday

Published 6:34 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2011

By Thadd White

Sports Editor

Four local teams will take to the gridiron Friday as they open up the 2011 high school football season.

Gates County and Northampton-East will each be at home this week while the Falcons of Bertie High School and the Bears of Hertford County High will take the road.


Bertie at Gates County: Last season couldn’t have been more different for Bertie and Gates County.

The Red Barons won 11 times on the field and secured the Tar-Roanoke Conference championship as the four years of rebuilding under skipper Matt Biggy paid off for Gates County.

Biggy’s squad tasted defeat just one time in the regular season and topped a state-ranked North Edgecombe club to win the TRC title.

Greg Watford, meanwhile, was beginning his first year at the helm of the storied Bertie High School football Falcons. The team, in the midst of a rebuilding season, won just twice in that inaugural campaign.

That would lead one to believe Friday’s matchup wasn’t going to be interesting, but the two coaches say the programs are more alike than they are different. Both Biggy and Watford intend to start freshmen at the quarterback position Friday and both teams are relying on youngsters to carry them into the season.

“We’re excited to start football; it’s always a great time of year,” Biggy said. “We’re coming off a strong year and the kids are working hard. We’ll see what we can do.”

Watford was equally thrilled to be starting a new season.

“I’m looking forward to us getting on the field and seeing where we are against a good football team,” Watford said.  “They have a great running back and a big line up front as well as a gifted receiver. Like us, they’ll be starting a freshman at quarterback and I think both of them are good athletes and good students.”

Biggy said his team will be looking at that running back – DaShawn Stokely – to help them as they prepare for Bertie. He also is pleased with the progress of Brandell Riddick in the backfield.

The coach said his team was young, but had quite a bit of talent.

“We’re in good physical condition,” Biggy said. “The guys have worked really hard and that’s all you can ask of them. If they show up and give you all they have, good things are going to happen.”

On the other side of the field, Watford said he was happy with the progress of his offensive and defensive lines which are now under the tutelage of veteran assistants Mike Dail and Robert Brown.

Watford also liked the development of his running back corps with Jaquil Hafiz, Jonathan Wilson and Erik Bowen leading the way along with the play of last season’s starting quarterback Malcolm Cherry.

The two teams have not played in recent years, but the coaches do know each other quite well.

“Our biggest concern right now is fixing our own problems,” Biggy said. “We are young and we have a lot of learning to do. We have to worry more about us and get us straight before we worry about what other people do.

“Still, Coach Watford and I are familiar with each other and we will both prepare for what we have seen the other one do before,” he added.

Watford echoed the same sentiments.

“We feel like Gates County will be the same type of team they have been – big, strong and well-coached,” he said. “Our main concern right now is that we have to make sure we are doing what will make us more successful.”

The two teams will start the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Gates County.

Granville Central at Northampton-East: Granville Central opens its third year of play as a varsity team Friday when they travel to Northampton County High School – East.

There they will meet a team that is almost brand new as well. Second-year skipper George Privott has installed a quick-hitting, no-huddle offense and modified the defense for the Rams.

“Basically, we have been working on our passing game through the seven-on-seven league since last spring,” the coach said. “We’ve started putting in our running game over the last few weeks and it only took a couple of days for them to get it.  I have been impressed with how quickly they are picking up the stuff we’re implementing since it’s all new.”

The Rams participated in a trio of scrimmages heading into Friday’s contest and look to be prepared as they start the season in the friendly confines of Roy F. Lowry Stadium.

Hertford County at South Central: Intensity will be the name of the game for Hertford County High School as they open 2011 play Friday.

“We need our kids to come out and play with intensity,” third-year HCHS mentor Scott Privott said. “We’ve had two good scrimmages and we want it to carry over. Our kids did some things we’re excited about.”

Privott said despite changing coaches over the summer, South Central would not change its offensive philosophy.

“They’re going to run the football; they’re a power team,” he said.

As for the Bears, the coach said he feels good.

“I’m really excited about our defense and our offensive line,” he said. “Both have played well in the scrimmages.

“Our question mark is our youth,” he added. “We want to see how they respond in a game situation.”

The Bears will open the season Friday at South Central.