Start those engines!

Published 10:38 am Thursday, August 22, 2013

AHOSKIE – By the time this story hits the newsstand, we’ll be less than a day away.

All the anticipation on the part of the players, the coaches, even the boosters and fans finally can come streaming out once that first football is kicked into the late summer evening air to begin the 2013 high school football season.

Four Roanoke-Chowan area teams will all see action under the Friday Night Lights. Hertford County is on the road at SE Halifax, Bertie opens the Rashawn Spencer coaching era at Gates County, and Northampton begins a march they hope will last well into November, if not beyond, when the Jaguars host Roanoke Rapids.

“It feels good, I’m excited,” said first-year field boss Spencer in a telephone interview earlier this week. “We’re excited, the community’s excited; excitement is really the buzzword for Friday night.

Spencer was coy about what Falcon fans can expect during his debut. “Everybody’s healthy,” he remarked when asked the status of the team in the final week of practice before game-night. “Beyond that, I have no comment.”

“Just come out and see the show,” he replied with a chuckle.

Across the field from the Blue-&-White come Friday night will be a Gates County team hoping for redemption from a 7-4 record and first-round exit in the playoffs in 2012. While his side is also optimistic about their opener, Red Barons coach Matt Biggy was a bit more reserved in his comments about facing Bertie.

“Actually, we’re kind of beat up,” cautioned Biggy in a telephone interview. “We had some good things come out of our scrimmages, but we’ll also have some guys out.”

“We’ve been getting after it pretty good at practice (this week), “he added. “The kids know we’ve got to go at it and that injuries are just part of the game.”

The Gates-Bertie rivalry, with the Falcons winning 34-19 a season ago, adds extra excitement to an already hyper-up match.

Both coaches saw the other’s team scrimmage at the “Jaguar Jamboree” in Creeksville back on Aug. 10.  Each one had glowing words for the other’s program.

“They’re very well coached, big up front, and disciplined,” said Spencer in referring to the ‘Barons. “We’re going to have a real challenge, and we need to meet it head-on.”

“It’s extremely important to get that first win,” he added. “That’s what sets the tone for the rest of your season.”

“A loss isn’t even in the game-plan because losing is not an option,” he concluded.

“From what I saw in the scrimmage they’ve got decent size and they’re going to bring a lot of pressure,” said coach Biggy about the Falcons. “They also have a running back (El Ameen Sharif) that was pretty tough to bring down.”

Biggy said Gates will stick to a grind-it-out game-plan. “A deep threat is not in our playbook because we like to run the football.”

“A good start for us is huge because success breeds success” he added. “We’ll be young on both our offensive and defensive lines with just one senior on each; but we’ll have good rotation.”

“That front group we have has worked really hard,” he concluded.

Across a couple of county lines the Northampton Jaguars play the first of four straight home games in their season opener with the Yellow Jackets.

“Right now I think we’ll be okay,” said second-year Jags coach George Privott. “Our starting center (Desmond Hicks) missed a lot of pre-season due to issues with his physical; (his return) solves some problems on the O-line but the guys have really worked hard together.”

“Roanoke Rapids on film is not the Roanoke Rapids of old,” he remarked. “De’Juan Walker (Roanoke Rapids QB) can be a lot of trouble, and we know they will try to keep the ball in his hands.”

Privott says Jags fans can expect to see a return to the no-huddle offense. “That will be to our advantage,” he says with a laugh. “We get to see how much other teams are out of shape.”

On the personnel side, Privott pronounced senior pre-season All-State quarterback Keion Crossen ready for the opener, but his running back, Christian Boone, was held out of practice much of this week.”

“He (Boone) is questionable with a pulled hamstring,” said the coach. “He tweaked it in our last scrimmage (in Ahoskie) and he’s just been doing stretching along with soaking it this week. Whether he plays will be a game-time decision.”

This game will also be the first time a Northampton team has met Roanoke Rapids in ten years because of the Jackets playing in a higher classification.

“Coach Long (assistant) reminded the guys it’s been a decade since we’ve played them,” Privott explained.

“I also reminded our kids that after going 11-3 a year ago a lot is expected from us this year,” he concluded. “Friday night will either be a good start or a wake-up call.”

Hertford County High School will open the 2013 football season at SE Halifax on Friday night.

The Bears are coming off an 8-4 season with a first-round playoff win and they are hoping to improve on that record.

Across the field the Trojans are big up front and very, very fast.

“They have a lot of skilled players,” said head coach Scott Privott.

Among those skilled players is Jaquez McDaniels, a junior running back who was named pre-season All-State.

“We have to stop the run and control quarterback David Watford,” said Privott.

If Watford’s name is familiar, it’s because he was the starting quarterback for Bertie High School the past two seasons where his father, veteran coach Greg Watford, was head-man for the Falcons until this spring. Privott says the Bear defense is very familiar with Watford and what he’s capable of doing on a football field.

Privott says his team has wrapped up a great week of practice and is just ready to get after someone not wearing blue-and-gold.

“We’re healthy going into our first game,” the coach said. “Running back Kenneth Sharpe is a little banged up but that just means we have to come out and play hard.”

“On defense we want to fly to the ball,” he added. “On offense we have to block well up front for our skilled players.”

Hertford County meets SE Halifax at Crowells Crossroads with a kicks off at 7:30 p.m. this Friday night.