The Havelock Rams like a challenge.

That’s why they have three perennial NCHSAA 4-A powerhouse football programs on their schedule.

Havelock (4-0) will end its slate of non-conference battles Friday evening at Northside (Jacksonville), a 2-A opponent.

“We’ve played three very good 4-A teams in a row which is tough for anyone because of numbers,” said Havelock assistant head coach Matt Handley. “We’ve had a few injuries and guys go down.

“It’s good for the kids, and competition, but it’s also good to play teams closer to our numbers.”

The Rams edged J.H. Rose, 30-25, last week as senior wide receiver Quinzel Lockhart hauled in nine passes for 149 yards with two touchdown grabs.

Prior to that, Havelock beat New Bern and New Hanover. All three of those 4-A opponents made it to the state championship game or Eastern Finals in the past three seasons.

“We just want to have the best non-conference schedule we can have to try and get us ready for our conference and for the playoffs,” Handley said.

Havelock is banged up heading into Friday’s game as running back Tony Sharpe is a game-time decision and two of its offensive linemen are questionable.

Still, the Rams have the talent to fill the void.

Sharpe has 449 rushing yards with four touchdowns. He’s been spelled by Cameron Hutchinson and Montrece Gatling.

Quarterback Corey Cooper has passed for 773 yards with seven touchdowns to three interceptions, while running for 174 yards and four more scores.

Lockhart (266 yards), Khalil Barrett (223 yards) and Kenyatta Frazier (163) lead the Rams in receiving yards.

“The kids seem to have settled back in after last week,” Handley said. “We made a bunch of mental mistakes and little things that we can fix and work on.”

Havelock has scored more than 35 points per game and its defense has allowed just 40 points in four games.

“All four touchdowns last week were coverage breakdowns where if our kids were communicating with each other we’d be fine,” Handley said. “That was our big emphasis this week – communication.

“We made adjustments at halftime and the kids stepped up in the second half.”

Havelock won last year’s game, 43-0.

Northside (3-1), which lost to Clinton, 35-16, last week, is led by quarterback Jonte McMullen who has 504 passing yards with six touchdowns to four interceptions. He’s also run for 254 yards.

Running back Jaquis Koonce has a team-best 404 rushing yards and Dwayne Washington has 205 yards.

The Monarchs have three wide receivers with more than 100 yards.

“They are one of the best 2-A teams in the area,” Handley said. “They have really good athletes. They have two good running backs and their quarterback is a good athlete.

“They are just as athletic on defense as they are on offense.”

Havelock at Northside (Jacksonville)

When: 7 p.m., Friday

Where: Jacksonville

Records: Havelock (4-0); Northside (Jacksonville) (3-1)

Coaches: Havelock – Jim Bob Bryant; Northside (Jacksonville) – Kendrick Pollock

Key players: Havelock – QB Corey Cooper, RB Tony Sharpe, RB/DB Montrece Gatling, WR/DB Quinzel Lockhart, DB Jeffrey Harris, DL Destin Flloyd; Northside (Jacksonville) – QB Jonte McMullen, RB Jaquis Koonce, RB Dwayne Washington, WR Jireh Wilson, DL Tyson Moore

Adam Thompson is the sports editor at the Sun Journal. He can be contacted at 252-635-5669. Follow Adam on Twitter @A_ThompsonNBSJ