Aug 7, 2012
Tarboro High School has become a model high school football program in eastern North Carolina.
The Vikings have turned out major talent in the last few years, including Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Duke lineman Tacoby Cofield, all while appearing in four straight state championship games, and winning the last three.
"People look at us and everybody wants a piece of us," senior lineman Tyquan Lewis said. "We know we're the best and they think we're the best too."
Winning has become an expectation for the Vikings.
"It's tough for me to say what other people think when they look at Tarboro," head coach Jeff Craddock said. "If their aspirations are to try to be the best football team they can be, then I would think that's trying to be like Tarboro."
But Craddock admits winning a state championship every year isn't a realistic expectation to have. That's why his focus is getting his team to play as good as it can and seeing what happens after that.
"Some years our best may be good enough to be state champions," he said. "Some years our best football may not be the best in the state."
Last season, Craddock said there were several teams that could have knocked off the Vikings in the playoffs.
"Last year there was a very, very fine line between us and I would say four other football teams that we played in the playoffs," said Craddock.
Tarboro also took hits during the season. The Vikings lost to Eastern Plains Conference foe Kinston late in the regular season, but they also fell to Nash Central in the opening game of the year.
"I tell [the Tarboro players], let's not get too excited at the beginning, let's see how good we are at the end. Last year was a great example of that," Craddock said. "I told our guys, I said, 'Listen, we can play better, we'll get better, let's just stay focused, stay true to what we do.'"
The perseverance paid off, as Tarboro defeated Lincolnton in the 2-A state championship game. But a major part of the team's success graduated when Gurley headed to Georgia this summer.
"We don't have anybody to replace Todd Gurley," Craddock said. "What we do have are three great young men back there that can do their thing... All of them are going to make plays for us throughout the year."
One of those players is running back Quentin Roberson. Playing with Gurley last season was an advantage, Roberson said.
"He encouraged me to be a leader, if I messed up, he encouraged me to keep going," he said.
Roberson and the Vikings will again open the season with Nash Central, but this time the game will be in Tarboro.
"That's redemption, we've got to redeem ourselves, we can't just let it happen on our home field," said Lewis.
But for Craddock, it's more about the big picture than a single game.
"We've got to get better every day, it's a coaching cliche, but I've used it for years and some teams don't get better," he said. "We're doing the best we can right now to get ready for a great Nash Central team that's going to be a challenge."
Nash Central will travel to Tarboro on Aug. 17. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
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