Most wonderful time of the year

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

I bet’cha that most who read the headline on today’s column thought I was going to get all mushy and sentimental by using this space to reminisce about my personal warm and fuzzy memories of the holidays.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, if you aren’t a fan of high school or college football, you can stop here and check out Dr. Mollette’s op-ed piece to the left if you need a bit of Christmas cheer.

It’s way too early in December to take a walk down memory lane when it comes to those special moments made by families and friends during the holiday season. Perhaps I’ll embark on that stroll in next week’s column, but for now it’s all about the game I love so dearly – football!! And the “football” I enjoy is oblong, not round. It’s the one that you can kick, throw, and run with. You can also hit your opponent really hard (please, not in the head) and won’t receive a colorful card for doing so.

For starters, the 2022 North Carolina High School Athletic Association will crown its four state champions in football this coming weekend. Years ago, back when I was the Sports Editor of this newspaper, I would attend these state championship games. It didn’t matter if we didn’t have a local team participating….it was just a great way to witness first-hand the number of high-quality athletes we had in our state.

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Tarboro High School is back in the Class 1A state championship game. The Vikings are 14-1 this season after defeating Rosewood, 35-7, in this past Friday’s Eastern Regional final. Tarboro’s only loss this season came on Aug. 26 (the second game of the regular season) in Ahoskie where they were handed a 56-54 loss by the Bears in what was the most entertaining game I covered this season.

Tarboro – aka “TitleTown” – is a perennial heavyweight in the sport of football. The Vikings have won four of the past five state titles at either the 1AA or 1A ranks. They have also won state championships in 1984 (as a Class 3A school, with Ahoskie native Jim Brett as their head coach) and twice at the Class 2A level (2010 and 2011).

They’ll go in search of title #8 this Saturday (Dec. 10) at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh where the Vikings meet Mount Airy (also 14-1).

Another perennial powerhouse returns to the Class 2A championship game. Reidsville (14-1) will play East Duplin (14-1) at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.

Between 1930 and 1940, Reidsville won seven championships in what was then classified as Class B schools. They played in one other finale during that decade, losing 6-0 to Edenton in 1934.

The Rams won twice more in the 1940’s as a Class A school.

Since 1950, Reidsville has collected the state’s top football hardware on 13 occasions, including the last three years.

Meanwhile, at the Class 3A level, Northern Nash will be making just its second-ever appearance in a state football title game. Northern Nash, who lost the 2002 State 4A title game, 14-7, vs. A.C. Reynolds, made it to the 2022 championship contest in thrilling fashion last week by edging Fayetteville 71st High School, 23-22.

On Saturday night (7 pm kickoff) at Carter-Finley Stadium, Northern Nash squares off against East Lincoln High School in a game of unbeatens (both are 15-0). East Lincoln has a 2-1 record in state championship games. They lost to Reidsville, 24-7, in the 2AA title game in 2008, but followed that up with wins over Tarboro, 24-20, in 2012 and 14-13 over Washington in 2014. Those two wins were at the 2A and 2AA levels respectively.

This coming Friday night (7 pm) at Kenan Stadium will see a contest between two Class 4A titans – New Bern High School and Grimsley High School out of Greensboro. Both teams currently own spotless 15-0 records.

Grimsley is the defending state 4A champions, knocking off Cardinal Gibbons, 28-8, last season.

Between 1934 and 1960, Grimsley has a 4-4-3 record in title games.

Since 2002, New Bern owns a 3-3 record in state championship games. The Bears have won the last three times they’ve played for a state title: 28-17 over Charlotte Independence in 2007; 39-38 vs. Porter Ridge (located in Union County) in 2012; and 23-15 against Charlotte Catholic in 2014.

It needs to be noted that New Bern’s first-year head coach is Torrey Nowell (a former standout at Gates County High School). Nowell led Pamlico County to the Class 1A state championship game in 2018.

Included among Nowell’s assistants is Bobby Curlings, who was a standout athlete at Bertie High School and is New Bern’s former head coach.

New Bern came to Ahoskie in early August for a scrimmage. I took note at that point of the strength of their running game, telling a colleague at that time that it wouldn’t surprise me to see New Bern reach the state championship game. The Bears didn’t prove me wrong.

Since most of my available space has been used to preview the high school football championships, I’ll quickly say that the “Final Four” in college football – Georgia, Michigan, Texas Christian, and Ohio State – didn’t come as a surprise either.

I was happy that TCU didn’t fall from grace after losing Saturday’s Big 12 title game in overtime vs. Kansas State. And while I’m not a fan of Ohio State, I can tolerate the Buckeyes at the #4 spot. I was so afraid the committee would put Alabama in that spot. It’s not that I don’t like the Crimson Tide. I just didn’t feel their season was good enough to warrant a top-4 ranking.

A quick response to this past Saturday’s ACC title game in Charlotte: it appears that UNC’s defense struggles against back-up quarterbacks. Clemson’s Cade Klubnik came off the bench to throw for 279 yards and one TD and rushed for another to lead the Tigers to a 39-10 win.

And a shout-out to NC State offensive coordinator Tim Beck who was hired Sunday as the new head coach at Coastal Carolina!

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.

email author More by Cal