Another title in T-town

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I wasn’t physically in Carter-Finley Stadium this past Saturday afternoon, but my mind was locked in to that location.

With my laptop in – well, my lap – and tuned in to an online radio station, I was able to follow along – between “honey-do” assignments doled out by my wife – the Class 1AA state championship football game.

Why? We didn’t have a local team participating, but I had an interest in one of the two combatants on the gridiron on this wet and cold Saturday afternoon.

I spent a shade over two years working at the Daily Southerner in Tarboro from 1979 to 1981. Tarboro was a football crazy town back then, and things haven’t changed that much between then and the present day.

Working at the Southerner (I was an assistant in the camera and plate rooms as well as a press helper) also presented me another opportunity….that of helping to cover high school athletics.

The Sports Editor back then was Mitch Evans….a Tarboro High grad. That meant he covered most all of the Tarboro games, while I was assigned to SouthWest Edgecombe and North Edgecombe. I learned a lot about sports writing from Mitch.

I did have the chance to help cover a few Tarboro games; particularly due to the fact they would typically make deep runs into the state playoffs (after SouthWest and North Edgecombe had been eliminated; or didn’t qualify).

It was fun to watch the famed “Tarboro T” offense in action. It was more along the lines of a “Wishbone” formation….a triple option rushing attack. At home games, Tarboro would wear all-purple uniforms. Between the triple option, the dark uniforms and the fact that Tarboro played in a dimly lit stadium, opposing defenses had a tough time figuring out who had the football.

Another personal connection to Tarboro was that its head coach back then was Ahoskie native Jim Brett. Jim spent 16 seasons at Tarboro High, and owns a state championship ring dated 1984.

As a side note, Jim was the head coach at Tarboro when the old Big 8 Conference was formed in the early 90’s. That same league included Hertford County. After returning to the News-Herald in the mid-80’s, I remember interviewing Coach Brett for what would be his first trip to Ahoskie to do battle with the Bears. I told him about the great lighting system at the HCHS stadium, and Coach Brett joked that he might come over the Thursday night before the game and shoot out a few of those lights.

Coach Brett eventually left Tarboro, but didn’t become immune from winning state football titles. He wound up at West Brunswick High School, guiding that team to back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993. I attended both of those games (held at UNC’s Kenan Stadium) and had the chance to go on the field afterwards and congratulate my long-time friend.

Meanwhile, Tarboro kept winning….still using that wicked “T” formation. The Vikings pulled off a “three-peat” in 2009-2010-2011 (all at the Class 2A level). At that time they had a young athlete in the backfield by the name of Todd Gurley II, now with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

That brings us to the 2017 season. I’ve followed Tarboro throughout and this year’s team may be one of the best-ever. The Vikings scored 40 or more points in 13 of its 14 games, including a 50-7 thumping of Edenton in the eastern finals on Dec. 1. On defense, they have allowed more than 10 points just twice this season.

On Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium, Tarboro met another heavyweight in Mt. Airy High School. Both teams sported perfect 14-0 records coming into the game.

The Vikings defense stood tall, carrying a 12-0 lead into the fourth quarter. In the final period, the Vikings offense finally started clicking, reeling off 20 points en route to a 32-7 win in the state championship game.

Congrats to the Vikes….and another title in T-town.


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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