Havelock coming off a needed open date

As a general rule, Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant doesn’t like bye weeks. However, he admits that last week’s open date came at a pretty good time in the schedule.

“With everything that’s been going on this year from injuries to other things, we needed a bye week,” he said.

The Rams (8-0, 3-0) are expected to be without two offensive starters when they host Richlands (1-7, 0-3) for homecoming at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Running back Tony Sharpe will miss the game with an injured ankle, while H-back Mark George is out with a knee sprain.

“Tony could probably play this week, but we’re going to hold him out,” Bryant said. “He’s about 90 percent, but we want to get him to 100 percent because we’re going to need him for the long haul. Plus, the way Solomon (Beligotti) and Montrece (Gatling) have been running the ball and Cameron (Hutchinson), we feel like we can hold Tony out for a week.”

The Rams are coming off a 22-6 victory over West Craven on Oct. 9, a victory that put Havelock in position to capture its seventh straight Coastal 3A Conference. Quarterback Corey Cooper ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass.

The Wildcats have struggled all year, scoring just 10 points a game while allowing nearly 36. Richlands lost 55-13 to Swansboro last week.

Bryant knows that homecoming could be a distraction for his players and that they may get complacent against a team that has just one victory on the season, so he’s given them certain goals to achieve during the game to keep them motivated.

“We’re giving them actual physical goals to reach,” he said. “If we reach those goals, we’ll reward them with less conditioning or a better pre-game meal or something like that.”

The homecoming parade is scheduled for 12:40 p.m. Friday. It will leave the high school and travel down Methodist Drive, passing in front of Havelock Middle School and Havelock Elementary school before turning right on Cunningham Boulevard and right on Fontana Boulevard and returning to the school, where a student pep rally is planned.

“I tell the kids that homecoming festivities are for the fans and the students, and the homecoming game is for the football team, so we try to keep it as much about football during the week as we can,” Bryant said. “It’s very difficult to do with all the stuff going on.”

After last week’s open date, Bryant knows the Rams have to get ready for the stretch run of the regular season, and most likely, the playoffs, where Havelock will be aiming for a fifth consecutive trip to the state championship game.

“We’re halfway through our season,” Bryant said. “We expect to play 16 games every year, but we can’t win all of them until we win the next one. We’re focused on Richlands, but in the back of our minds, we know we want to be playing in December.”