“This is the biggest game of the year next to the state championship game,” explained Gryphon defensive back/wingback Stephan Virgil, who has received offers from Wake Forest, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Both teams come into the contest a perfect 7-0 and hungry for the top spot in the Big East Conference. The Bears come into the contest with the #1 ranked defense in the state, which has only given up 29 points all season, while Rocky Mount boast a great offense which will give New Bern its toughest test as of yet.
“This is a statement game,” remarked Rocky Mount quarterback Terrell Hudgins. “It will let people know we can play against anyone.”
The Gryphons are coming off big wins against conference foes Havelock and two weeks ago J.H. Rose, on Rose’s homecoming. They hope to ruin yet another homecoming this Friday night and at the same time revenge last year’s 38-25 loss.
Hudgins and Virgil felt positive of the week’s practices and believe that their game plan won’t stray too far from their norm and figure to run right at the Bears’ defense.
“Nothing worries me,” stated Hudgins in regards to New Bern’s stingy defense. “As long as the line picks up there assignments and find the blitzes when they come we will be ok.”
Virgil, on the other hand, worries about containing three-star tailback Montario Hardesty. Hardesty, who owns a fairly long scholarship offers sheet, has rushed for 999 yards and ten touchdowns on just 144 carries.
“If we can contain Montario and maintain our assignments we can hold them,” stated Virgil.
The bears are coming off a lackluster performance against upstart D.H. Conley last week in Greenville, but Coach Williams feels they have gotten more focused and are ready for Friday’s game.
“If the Bears focus we’ll execute and if we execute we’ll win the game” said Coach Williams.
The sentiment thru the whole team is this game is no bigger than any other game. Each game gets bigger and bigger as the season continues and this game is just the next in line.
“We look at it like the next game is the Big game,” Hardesty said. “It’s the next game that is why it is so big.”
“If we beat Rocky Mount and lose to Northern Nash we lost the conference” said New Bern defensive leader Joe Brown. “If everybody takes care of their job it’s not going to be a problem. [We just have to] keep doing what we been doing to win.”
One of those things the Bears have to “keep doing” is playing smart on defense, especially against a solid Rocky Mount offense that has plenty of weapons in their Wing-T offense.
“[Coach] B.W. [Holt] does a great job of coaching the Wing-T, which has keys” explained Coach Williams. “If you use those keys obviously you will know what’s coming. If we start looking at all the cannon fire that goes around instead of looking at the cannon ball we’ll get shot in the eyes”.
To add to the magnitude of this game, New Bern is going for there 28th consecutive home victory. The Bears have not loss in the friendly confines of Carouso-Coates since Northern Nash defeated the Bears on Nov 2, 2001.
Could the high powered Gryphon offense stop the streak and claim a conference title, or will the New Bern defense continue their domination of opposing offenses? You’ll just have to keep your eyes on the East.