Everyone was nearly able to attend this week’s Valley-wide gridiron jamboree, which was to feature seven games, eight teams and a ton o’ fun.
Why, might you ask?
Because COVID-19, naturally — a spike that forced Warren County into quarantine and KIPP Pride into limbo, its Saturday roadie to face the Burgundy now a matter of maybe, not iron-clad certainty.
Sheesh, man — displayed with a woe-is-us, hands-up, seemingly unyielding sigh.
But, onward the show proceeds, without fail, leading up to and including our preview of this week’s slate — starring nearly all of our teams.
Roanoke Rapids (4-2) at
Rocky Mount (4-2)
An updated straw-poll of Jacket Nation just might reveal a certain weariness with respect to Nash County, which has produced the last three opponents for its beloved team.
And with very good reason.
Two weeks ago, Southern Nash scored 56 points on the black-and-gold, only to be followed in step by Northern Nash, which flourished late during Friday’s 42-17 triumph.
Now, it’s a trip to tradition-rich Rocky Mount, where head coach Chris Lyons must scheme to slow the 1-2-3 punch of Cameron Jones, Elijah Battle and DaMarhjae Mitchell — which has combined to produce 818 all-purpose yards this season.
Bethel Christian (4-1) at
Halifax Academy (3-1)
Idle since a Sept. 24 thumping of Lawrence Academy-Albemarle School, Halifax Academy returns to work on Friday as the host of Bethel Christian, which suffered in all phases last week during a 44-8 setback to Wayne Christian.
So, what gives in this matchup?
Well, a better effort from BCA, for one, in addition to plenty of carries for Halifax running back Braxton Hammack, who enters the contest with 760 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
If Hammack performs well, so too will the Vikings — but it won’t be easy, what with the Trojans allowing just 15.2 points per contest.
Northwest Collegiate (2-2) at
Northampton County (4-2)
Northampton County was efficient last week, dispatching Southeast Collegiate with two forms of gridiron currency — force and speed.
But after going 15 rounds during a 45-22 loss to Washington on Tuesday, what remains to be seen is just how much petty cash the Jags will have at their disposal on Friday, when upstart Northwest Collegiate pays a visit to Gaston.
If its reserves are solid, navy-and-teal enthusiasts could well enjoy another Tar Roanoke 1A triumph — but if not, expect a big night by NCTA’s Kishon Hedgepeth, who single-handedly kept the Vikings in last week’s scrape with Warren County.
Weldon (2-1) at
Rocky Mount Prep (0-3)
Armed with just 14 players, Rocky Mount Prep sacked its Week 7 junket to KIPP Pride, and won’t, in all likelihood, offer much protest on Friday, when five-wide Weldon makes the trip to Bishop Road.
To that end, expect a volume-scoring performance by the Chargers, who will move on from last week’s unsightly loss to North Edgecombe to have this one under control by halftime.
Trust in the Navy Blues here, and in a large way.
North Edgecombe (1-5) at
Southeast Collegiate (1-5)
Following last week’s barren trip to Gaston, Southeast Collegiate head coach Antione Alston remained upbeat, expressing that his team had more to give as the Tar Roanoke 1A schedule begins to narrow.
That spirit, however, will surely be tested on Friday, when North Edgecombe visits the crossroads for an always-physical league showdown.
And if these pages are close to being right, expect SCPA to move the pocket, throw on the run and explore routes up the boundary in hopes of racing past its bruising neighbor.
Buckle up, good people — this one has all the makings of a lively, back-and-forth affair.
Wayne Christian (3-3) at
Northeast Academy (0-2)
Captain Obvious alert — Wayne Christian has played more football to date than has Northeast Academy, and at this point, that matters.
Because while WC has been sparring against the heavyweight likes of Arendell Parrott Academy, Rocky Mount Academy and Cary Christian, NEA has been idle, rehabbing injuries suffered during the team’s season-opener on Sept. 17.
What’s more, the visiting Eagles will arrive in form, having leveled Bethel Christian Academy, 44-8, a week ago.
So, exactly how does Big Red pull off a Week 8 miracle?
By just getting to the field, of course, and playing with heart through the final horn — that’ll do for now.