Havelock to host Williams in first round
HAVELOCK | The Havelock Rams build themselves up for the playoffs.
It’s what they work for all season long. It’s when they buckle down and the intensity picks up at practice.
The Rams, winners of four of the past five Eastern Regional Finals, find themselves in a different scenario this time – as the No. 3 seed in the East.
Havelock (10-1) plays host to Burlington Williams at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the first round of the NCHSAA 3-A football playoffs.
“We can’t win five games in the playoffs until we win the first one,” said Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant. “We are focused on Burlington Williams right now, they have a really good team.
“At the end of this week, we want to be 1-0 and that’s what we are shooting for.”
The winner will play either Orange or Wilson Fike in next week’s second round. If Orange wins, as the No. 2 seed, it will host that game.
When the Rams won state championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013, they played at home throughout the playoffs. And last year, they lost at home in the second round against Eden Morehead.
But this year’s group is led by seniors eager to make a push for their first state title.
“We have some really good seniors that have fought through some adversity this year, and last year, and it seems like we have a little bit of adversity every year which brings us closer together as a team and makes us better football players and better men,” Bryant said. “Our seniors have some a great job holding this team together.”
Senior quarterback Corey Cooper has passed for 2,033 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while gaining 625 yards on the ground with eight scores. Sophomore Cameron Hutchinson has 11 rushing touchdowns, while senior Montrece Gatling and juniors Justin Hoover and Soloman Beligotti added to the ground game. Senior wide receiver Quinzel Lockhart has 43 receptions for 695 yards.
Havelock averages nearly 240 rushing yards per game.
“Our offensive line has picked it up. We kind of changed some of the schemes that we’ve been doing to match what they are good at, then we’ve put four guys in the backfield that can score every time they touch it,” Bryant said. “We’ve been splitting carries between them to keep them fresh because two of them start on defense. Our running game has picked up the last few weeks.”
Havelock’s defense is yielding 11.2 points per game. The Rams have 14 sacks, as senior defensive lineman Destin Flloyd has four of them, while taking the ball away 37 times – 24 fumble recoveries, 13 interceptions.
“We are getting after the ball more. Talent-wise, this team is just as talented as any team we’ve coached here,” Bryant said. “Now, they’ve started to play with a sense of urgency and the fire and passion that the teams in 2012 and 2013 played with.
“I showed them the 2012 highlight tape, which was 42 minutes long, and I told them that talent-wise, they rival that team. I wanted to show them how hard those guys played.”
Burlington Williams (6-5), the No. 6 seed, scores 23.5 points per game, while the defense allows 14.6 points per game.
The Bulldogs are led by quarterback Isaiah Coleman and running back Shemar Thompson, who has 1,075 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns.
Walter W. Williams Bulldogs at Havelock Rams
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rams Stadium, Havelock
Coaches: Williams – Dave Grant; Havelock – Jim Bob Bryant
Key players: Williams – QB Isaiah Coleman, RB Shemar Thompson, WR Isaiah Grice, LB Alvantae Richmond, DL Torrence Williams; Havelock – QB Corey Cooper, RB Cameron Hutchinson, WR Quinzel Lockhart, DL Destin Flloyd, DB Montrece Gatling, LB Soloman Beligotti, LB Tyiyon Johnson.
Adam Thompson is the sports editor at the Sun Journal. He can be contacted at 252-635-5669. Follow Adam on Twitter @A_ThompsonNBSJ