West Craven, Havelock to meet for trip to semifinals

There’s a little more on the line, the stakes are higher, as Craven County foes Havelock and West Craven resume their rivalry on Friday night in Vanceboro.

The Rams and Eagles will play at 7:30 p.m. in the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs where the winner will advance to the Eastern Finals.

“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.”

Havelock, winners of the previous seven Coastal 3-A titles, defeated West Craven, 49-7, in the second round of the state playoffs in 2014.

West Craven took that crown away from the Rams this season and capped off an undefeated 10-0 regular season, and followed that by outscoring its two playoff opponents 92-14.

“I think it’s part of the book. It’s been a good book for us this year and this makes it special to be able to play Havelock again,” said West Craven coach Mike Twichell.

West Craven (12-0) beat Havelock (12-1), 28-21, earlier this season in a game that was started on Oct. 6 and finished on Oct. 24 because of Hurricane Matthew, snapping its eight-game losing streak to the Rams.

In 2008, West Craven topped Havelock, 47-0, and continued on the play in the state championship game in Winston-Salem.

That’s the same site where this year’s state finals will be played.

Havelock and West Craven are two wins away from playing for a championship.

“The rivalry is going to be a lot bigger now that this is in the playoffs,” said West Craven quarterback Jarred Arthur. “You are talking about a lot more serious stuff when you are talking about the playoffs and having a chance to go to states.

“The winner of this gets to play to go to states so I think this is the biggest game in this matchup.”

Playing this late in the season only intensifies the rivalry.

Havelock is fueled by West Craven handing the Rams their only loss. West Craven has the task of trying to beat the same team, one with an equal amount of wins, twice in the same season.

After Friday, only one of these teams will get to continue a dream season.

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

“There’s absolutely a fuel there.”

No. 3 seed Havelock escaped with a 14-7 win at Orange in last week’s second-round game as Solomon Beligotti scored two rushing touchdowns and Jeffrey Harris intercepted three passes.

The Rams have outscored their two playoff opponents 56-21.

No. 1 seed West Craven bested Eastern Alamance, 36-7, last week to set up a state quarterfinal matchup with its rival.

“We’ve been up for these games all year. I think that’s a big testament to why we are 12-0. Havelock can easily say the same thing, they are a 12-win football team just like we are,” Twichell said. “These teams have really good coaching staffs, really good athletes. It’s going to be a classic Craven County brawl that you’ve been seeing since probably the early 2000s.”

In recent history, Havelock played in the state championship game from 2011-14, winning three of those. West Craven played for a state title in 2008, but lost to West Rowan, 35-7.

The schools have one met just once in the playoffs during that span.

Havelock is scoring more than 40 points per game, while its defense is giving up 11 points per game. West Craven is putting up 45.5 points per game and allowing 13.4 points per game.

“They beat us the first time we played them and hopefully we will play a good game Friday night, and have a chance to advance to the Eastern finals. Either way, us and West Craven are very good football teams,” Bryant said. “It’s going to be a hard-fought game. We respect them and they respect us. We are excited about playing another undefeated team.”

The winner will play at their respective home stadium against either four-seed Rocky Mount or three-seed Southern Guilford for a trip to the state championship.

The NCHSAA 3-A championship game will be played at 11 a.m. on Dec. 17 at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem.

Last 14 meetings

*All-time series: Havelock leads 35-16, since 1958

2016 – West Craven 28, Havelock 21

2015 – Havelock 22, West Craven 6

2014 – Havelock 49, West Craven 7 (second round, playoffs)

2014 – Havelock 57, West Craven 7

2013 – Havelock 21, West Craven 7

2012 – Havelock 44, West Craven 7

2011 – Havelock 76, West Craven 14

2010 – Havelock 42, West Craven 14

2009 – Havelock 42, West Craven 40

2008 – West Craven 47, Havelock 0

2007 – Havelock 8, West Craven 0

2006 – West Craven 12, Havelock 7

2005 – West Craven 35, Havelock 15

2004– West Craven 29, Havelock 25

*West Craven High became a school in 1971, before that it was Farm Life High

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