MacNichol

Roanoke Rapids all-purpose star Matthew MacNichol, shown here returning a kick for a touchdown last week versus Warren County, will attempt to do more of the same tonight as the Jackets (4-1) finalize the regular season at home versus rival Bunn (3-3).

Be gone, all manner of dramatic buildup.

Hello, longstanding rival.

And with nary a spare second to waste.

Such is now the case for Roanoke Rapids (4-1), which decided earlier this week to move its rival-rumble with Bunn to this evening, as to sidestep raindrops forecast for the Valley on Friday.

“Last thing we need is to go in and play such a big game with a wet, sloppy field,” RRHS head coach Chris Lyons said of the school’s audible to advance the contest. “One less day of preparation, which I don’t like, as a coach … but as a competitor, I’m ready to roll — let’s go play.”

Fundamental approach

Bunn (3-3) won’t throw the leather all over the lot, but will test the Jackets on the ground with a trio of running backs in Ryan Moody, Lavadous Bolden and Juvenal Angulo, who have combined for 887 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

In other words, not exactly a Sunday stroll through Emry Park.

“Stopping the run is our bread and butter,” Lyons said of the chore outlined for his team, which will include reading keys getting maximum hats to the football on each down. “Like last week, holding them (Warren County) to zero points in the second half — so, all-around, I’m so confident in our defense, and being able to stop that run.”

As well he should be, given the group has allowed just 17 points per outing this season.

Special teams, special teams

In addition to Bunn’s rushing trio, there is also the matter of its special teams unit — helmed by return-man extraordinaire Steven Angulo — which has gifted the Wildcats a litany of short fields this season.

And yes, Lyons — well-aware of the troupe’s burst — has it planned for on multiple levels.

“Robert Keyes went out with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), and he was on every special teams,” Lyons said of his coverage battery, which has yet to allow a kick return for a touchdown this season. “We’re gonna have to replace him, and probably put a little bit more capable bodies on that kickoff return, or kickoff and the punt, to limit them, special-teams wise.”

Additionally, the Jackets will lean on the booming leg of kicker Doug Merritt, who, over the course of this season, has kept the Jackets out of any field-flipping danger.

Emotional meter

Tonight’s test will perhaps be the black-and-gold’s most nervy to date, what with Senior Night festivities adding to the close of a most-colorful regular season.

Toss in its guest, and there you have it — a rivalry tilt scripted, in this case, with one team eyeing the playoffs, and the other likely resigned to a view of the dance from a distance.

Trap-game, anyone?

Not if Lyons and Co. can possibly help it.

“That cannot be the case,” the coach said of the showdown. “It’s still Bunn, they’re still our rival, we still want to go undefeated in conference, we still need to finish this thing off strong … just been preaching, do not let this be a let-down game.”

Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. at Hoyle Field.