The opportunity to see something special is here

I understand. It’s going to be crowded. Getting in and out of the parking lot won’t be easy. It’s a 40-minute drive. You might not have a seat in the bleachers because of the large crowd. It’s going to be cold.

And, you would be right on all accounts.

However, when the opportunity to see something special comes along, do you really want to be sitting at home on the couch eating pretzels while watching a re-run of “Blue Bloods?”

Sure, “Blue Bloods” is a fine show, and on any other Friday night, a re-run of the Tom Selleck police drama might be a good option.

Not this Friday night.

The Havelock Rams are scheduled to play the West Craven Eagles at 7:30 p.m. Friday at West Craven High School in a third-round playoff game.

Making no apology to Michigan and Ohio State, this is “The Game,” and even if you are simply a casual fan of football, this is the one game that you don’t want to miss.

First, there is a lot at stake here. The winning team will head to the eastern 3A regional championship game, with the chance of advancing to the state championship game. For the losing team, the season is over.

And, just in case you were wondering, both teams are really good.

West Craven is undefeated, entering the contest with a 12-0 record.

Havelock is 12-1, with its only loss being a 28-21 defeat to West Craven in a game that got interrupted for 2 1/2 weeks by Hurricane Matthew.

Oh, and these teams are the biggest of county rivals separated by a mere 31 miles. They’ve been playing football against each other since the early 1970s. Havelock had owned the series of late, having won eight in a row, including two victories in 2014 when the Rams won a regular-season matchup as well as a playoff contest. In that span, Havelock advanced to four state championship games, winning three of them.

However, West Craven has gotten stronger over the last couple of years, and the games between the two teams became closer. And then there was this year’s game, which started Oct. 6 and finally ended on Oct. 24 with the Eagles taking a 28-21 victory by scoring two late fourth-quarter touchdowns. With the victory, West Craven stopped Havelock’s run of seven consecutive Coastal 3A Conference championships and its 35-game league winning streak.

The last time the Eagles beat Havelock in 2008, they advanced to the state championship game.

“The team that wins is one win away from a trip to the state championship,” Havelock football coach Jim Bob Bryant said. “Rivalry game or no rivalry game, it’s going to be a big football game.

“Because it’s Havelock and West Craven, with the history of good football games, it’s going to add a little bit extra.”

The Eagles are impressive. They remind me of Havelock’s state championship teams from earlier this decade. West Craven has an accurate and strong-armed quarterback in Jarred Arthur. The Eagles also have athletic wide receivers, including Darious Abrams, who caught two touchdown passes from Arthur in the game against Havelock earlier this year.

And, West Craven is strong on defense. Led by defensive end Shaundre Mims, the Eagles have allowed just 13.4 points per game.

“This shows the talent we have in Craven County in football,” Havelock quarterback Corey Cooper said. “New Bern has been a powerhouse. West Craven and Havelock are powerhouses. To be playing against each other in the third round of the 3A state playoffs, being just 35 to 40 minutes apart, speaks a lot about that.

Cooper can be an efficient quarterback, and can throw the ball as well as run it. The Rams have a stable of running backs in Montrece Gatling, Cameron Hutchinson and Solomon Beligotti, and wide receiver Quinzel Lockhart has committed to play college football at the Naval Academy.

Oh, and the Rams are pretty good on defense as well. Havelock has intercepted six passes in their first two playoff games, and has strength up front in Destin Flloyd, in the middle with Kendall Frazier and on the outside in Tyiyon Johnson. And Havelock gives up just 11.1 points per game.

“These teams have really good coaching staffs, really good athletes,” West Craven coach Mike Twichell said. “It’s going to be a classic Craven County brawl that you’ve been seeing since probably the early 2000s.”

Bottom line — these two teams are really good and are bitter county rivals with a lot riding on the outcome of this one football game. Something special is going to happen on the field Friday night. You’re going to want to be there, regardless of parking, the huge crowd — and “Blue Bloods.”

Ken Buday is the editor and general manager of the Havelock News. He can be reached at ken.buday@havenews.com or at 635-5673.