At the door, once again.
Such is the case tonight for the Northampton County varsity football team, which will duel Northside-Pinetown for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A East Region crown — its second appearance in the posteason’s penultimate game in as many years.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in Gaston.
And wouldn’t you know it, we’ve pieced together a capsulized preview of the win-or-go-home confrontation, beginning with what the Jaguars (3-3) must do to contain a talented Northside (7-2) roster.
Parts and pieces
Find James Gorham; secure James Gorham.
In theory, the plan sounds simple, but in reality, has proven difficult this season, as evidenced by the Northside senior rushing for 1,225 hashmarks and 20 touchdowns in just nine games.
For those scoring at home, that’s 54% of the Panthers’ ground work.
“It looks like they use him as a speed threat,” Northampton County head coach George Privott said of Gorham, who ran for 214 yards and four scores during Northside’s heart-stopping, 35-34 opening-round victory over Rosewood. “For us, it’s just knowing where he is at all times, and containing him first. Not that we’re gonna overlook the rest of’em, but the other ones aren’t as big a home-run hitter as he is.”
Defensively, matters won’t be much easier, what with the navy-and-teal having to locate and fend off Fred Taylor and Zion Wilson, who have booked a combined 89 tackles this shortened season, with 33 of those going for loss.
Simply put, the duo has a nose for disruption.
“You, pretty much, gotta know where they line up,” Privott said of the chore offered by the pairing, which will begin at the line of scrimmage and conclude downfield. “And then, with the play-calling, like I said, trying to get those guys tired … they’re two phenomenal players.”
Navy-and-teal stars, notes
Northampton County will oppose Northside’s haste and power with like forces of its own, primarily in the form of sophomores Anthony Harding and Kwamie Pitt — each of whom gassed Bear Grass Charter last week in the second half of a 44-22 triumph.
Combined, Nos. 7 and 8 rushed for 308 yards and four touchdowns.
And should Northside’s vaunted defense force the Jags behind the chains, fans of the navy-and-teal should expect freshman wideout Jamari Blake — whose sure hands have collected six passes for 86 yards and two scores this postseason — to enter the picture full-frame.
Lastly, there’s the matter of special teams, and the boot of Northside kicker Chase Tomaini, who is averaging 39.4 yards per kickoff this season — a line that likely won’t allow NHC’s ground attack to begin drives in the coziest of confines.
Not to worry, however, as Privott and Co. are prepared to survive any field position offered — good, bad or indifferent — by the Panthers.
“We’ll just settle with where we get the ball,” Privott said when asked if an early-down wrinkle might be utilized to offset any head-scratching, down-and-distance scenarios.
Which is to be expected, of course, from a coach and a program that has paid visit to this stage before.
All that remains now is to see if the two can star on it again.