AJ Harding

Northampton County quarterback Anthony Harding (8) tries to shake Warren County’s Zai’shaun Robinson during last week’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A playoff matchup. The Jaguars welcome Rosewood to Gaston on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Rosewood-Northampton County, yet again.

Such will be the case on Friday, when the pair duels in third-round play of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A football playoffs, reprising a showdown responsible for high drama over the past four seasons.

As in, reach-for-the-O2 drama.

Seriously.

Long before the world changed, back in 2018, the No. 4-seed Eagles paid visit to Gaston and properly shook up the East Region, holding the No. 1-seed Jaguars to just six first-half points en route to a bracket-tumbling, 28-12 triumph.

Some 364 days later, it was NHC’s turn to play the foil, courtesy of running back Na’Jae Newsome, who dashed Rosewood’s title plans by speeding 74 yards for the game-winning score with just 32 seconds remaining — capping a contest that neither outfit, really, deserved to lose.

Epic, it was, in every sense of the word.

All of which brings us to the present — and the recent past, kinda-sorta — for a third meeting of these old friends, thus officially marking the sport’s holiday season.

Purple parts, pieces

If Northampton is to indeed silence the purple-and-gold, it must begin in the backfield, where Terquavis Butler and David Lamm have combined to rumble for 1,126 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.

Butler, a disciplined runner with burst, averages 13.2 yards per carry, while Lamm — a 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore — appears to be the team’s preferred goal-line option.

In either case, however, a challenging assignment.

And when not directing the Eagle rushing attack, expect quarterback Rocco Raper to explore vertical options, beginning with senior wideout John Thompson, who has 17 receptions this fall for 292 yards and a pair of trips to the paint.

Jags in form, on point

Over the last six weeks — a period also covering a first-round bye — NHC has perfected the art of volume-scoring, obliterating its opponents by a 246-34 margin.

Yes, 246-34.

Driving such disproportion has been the pace of junior running back Kwamie Pitt, who needs just 73 yards on Friday to eclipse 1,000 for the season.

As one-cut options go, No. 7 is the team’s primary weapon — strong enough to run between the tackles, yet nimble enough to ghost defenders when the action speeds toward the boundary.

Should Pitt fail to meet his customary standard, however, look for Anthony Harding, Jayden Harvey and Jamari Blake — who has 10 receptions for 295 yards and four touchdowns this fall — to pay the bulk of Old Navy’s postage.

Defensive notes, playmakers

Expect Northampton County middle linebacker Alexander Creecy, who has been nothing short of spectacular this season (100 total tackles, 11 for loss), to have a down-by-down role in halting the Rosewood ground scheme ... outside the numbers, Harvey (40 tackles, three interceptions) will surely be on patrol, matching up against the RHS duo of Thompson and freshman Micah Cox, who enters the scrape averaging 22.2 yards per catch … as for point-after efficiency, give NHC the slight edge, as it has converted 61% of its touchdowns this fall.

Tickets and such

Per Northampton County head coach and athletic director George Privott, the game will kick off at 7:30 p.m., with tickets available for $8 at the gate.