North Stanly faces powerhouse Tarboro in state playoffs

Comets are the last local team standing in the NCHSAA football tournaments

South Stanly’s season ended in the second round of the NCHSAA 1AA playoffs with a 62-6 loss to undefeated Tarboro. Next up for the conquering Vikings? A visit from the Rowdy Rebel Bulls’ cross-county rivals, 11-2 North Stanly. The Comets, who advanced with a 42-0 win over Granville Central, and Vikings are playing for a spot in the tournament semifinals. (Starla Eudy Whitley)

ALBEMARLE — The high school football playoffs will continue Friday night, and North Stanly is the only local team left after West Stanly and South Stanly made their swan songs in the second round and Albemarle lost in the first round.

West Stanly, competing in the 2A playoffs, lost to Wheatmore 48-19 in a game played in Randolph County. Albemarle, in the 1A bracket, bowed out in the first round against Cherokee after a long trip to the western edge of the state.

South Stanly played No. 1 seed Tarboro down east on Friday night in the second round of the 1AA playoffs. The defending state champion Vikings won a lopsided contest against the Rowdy Rebel Bulls 62-6. Tarboro entered the game riding a 26-game winning streak that dates back to a 2016 loss in the Eastern Final to eventual state champion Wallace-Rose Hill.

Asked whether his team had seen an opponent like Tarboro this season, South head coach Ryan Ochier replied, unequivocally, “No.” The five-time state champions are averaging 55.6 points per game in their 12 wins so far while holding opponents to less than four points per game.

“They are what everybody predicted,” said Ochier. “Their quarterback is a magician.”

That is dual-threat QB Kimani McDaniels, who uses play-action to complement the Vikings’ five senior running backs who have amassed more than 3,000 rushing yards and 64 touchdowns on the season.

Ochier offered that the best hope any team has against Tarboro is to control the tempo of the game to keep the Vikings’ big-play offense off the field.

That opinion is shared by North Stanly head coach Scott Crisco, whose Comets are on a nine-game winning streak that includes four consecutive shutouts — half of the team’s eight shutouts on the season. Tarboro has allowed just one team — county rival SouthWest Edgecombe — to score in double digits this season and has six shutouts of its own.

Crisco said his defense will be the key.

“We go as far as our defense takes us,” he said.

But this week, Crisco’s offensive attack will also be an integral part of his defensive strategy.

“Our offense has to help our defense out,” he said. “We can’t have turnovers and expect our defense to bail us out this week,” said Crisco.

“Defensively, we are going to have to adjust to the opponent. If we don’t play four quarters, we will lose,” said Crisco. “They are going for the big plays. We have to limit those. Then, our offense has to take some pressure off of our defense and stay on the field longer.”

Crisco will have some of Stanly County’s finest athletes at his disposal with tailback Cameron Davis already committed to Campbell, star defensive line-man C.J. Clark headed to NC State and long-snapper Drew Little committed to UNC. Tight end/defensive end Garrett Clark, quarterback Bailey Baker and receiver/defensive back L.J. Rush are also considering college offers but haven’t made their commitments.

The game will be played Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Tarboro.