Havelock aiming for eighth-straight title

HAVELOCK | The Havelock Rams have been king of the Coastal 3-A Conference for years – seven years in a row.

With four games to go, they are looking to hold court and claim another crown.

“We take a lot of pride in it. We are trying to be like the past teams and keep it going,” said Rams’ junior Khalil Barrett.

The top-ranked Rams have 35-straight wins within the conference and have won a conference title each year since 2009.

Since head coach Jim Bob Bryant took over the program, they have a conference record of 52-3 since 2008, with three state championships, and haven’t lost a conference game since late in the 2010 season.

“It’s very personal for us. A lot of the guys have been around to see the past programs,” said senior Montrece Gatling. “They want to keep the tradition going.

“We don’t take this lightly at all. We are trying to get back to the state championship, that’s our ultimate goal.”

Sitting at 7-0 overall, and 2-0 in the Coastal 3-A, they haven’t played since their game against West Craven was suspended at halftime on Oct. 6.

The Rams head to Richlands on Friday and will finish their game against West Craven on Monday, a game they trail 7-0 at halftime. They concluded the regular-season with back-to-back home games against Swansboro and Jacksonville.

“I think we are anxious to get back out and hit someone in a different color jersey,” assistant coach Matt Handley said. “The kids have handled it pretty well. It’s a pretty senior-led group so they are able to self-police a lot of stuff.”

The Rams had a scheduled bye week last week, and with schools closed last week to students, they had minimal practice time.

“We all miss it. It’s been two and a half weeks since our last game,” Gatling said. “That’s long for us. We aren’t used to that. Friday night, we are going to pick it right back up.”

As the season inches closer to its climax, the Rams are out to prove they are still the team to beat.

“This is a statement game for everyone else. Everyone is trying to beat us,” Barrett said. “We have to keep working hard and not sleep on anybody.”

The Rams’ offense is scoring nearly 40 points per game led by senior quarterback Corey Cooper who has 1,348 passing yards with 12 touchdowns to eight interceptions, while rushing for 259 yards and four scores.

Running back Tony Sharpe has 738 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns, Cameron Hutchinson has 283 rushing yards with eight touchdowns and Gatling has 259 yards.

Quinzel Lockhart has a team-high 459 receiving yards. Barrett has 313 receiving yards.

“We have to have hard work and dedication. We’ve been working hard on everything we do,” Barrett said. “It makes us want to come out and play harder, not make any mistakes, be perfect and do everything right.”

Havelock’s defense is allowing opposing offenses to score 10 points per game, with two shutouts.

The Rams have forced 22 turnovers – eight interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries – with 11 sacks.

“We have to play our best game each week. We can’t take any plays or any games off. We have to play to our highest level,” Gatling said. “Each week, practice gets tougher. The intensity picks up even more. We have to keep going up.”

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