What we learned in week eight
Posted October 14, 2013
Finally, things are looking clearer!
It's been a roller coaster ride of a high school football year in North Carolina, but the eighth week of the season brought the type of night we've been waiting for since it all began.
With conference play now in full-swing for most teams, we are finally getting the answers to questions we have been asking for weeks. On top of that, Friday night brought us some highly-anticipated showdowns between conference powers. It was a true pleasure for someone following the area's football closely.
Oh, and there was also some big decision from some guy named Braxton Berrios.
Let's get into it. Here's what week eight showed me:
The Big Eight is as fun as I had hoped
Cardinal Gibbons (5-2, 2-1) vs. Southern Durham (5-2, 3-0) was a game I had circled long in advance. After a shaky start to the year, the Spartans earned some more respect by downing the Crusaders, 45-28.
Quick trivia question: When was the last time Gibbons lost a conference game?
The answer: Back in the days when they were a part of the Mid-State 1A/2A Conference with Orange, Northwood, Graham, Cummings, Cedar Ridge and Carrboro. The date was November 7, 2008, and it was a 28-24 loss to Northwood. The 2008 Crusaders went on to lose in the second round of the state playoffs that year. Much has changed in the Triangle since then, but I still expect Gibbons to be right there in the mix of the conference when all is said and done. As long as Shawn Stankavage, Dante DiMaggio and the playmakers on offense keep doing what they do, they'll come out with a decent playoff spot.
Speaking of history, the Orange Panthers (44.4 points per game, allowing 6.1 ppg) may have the best team they've ever had. A 59-7 win over Cedar Ridge boosts them to 7-0 (3-0), tied with the Spartans at the top of the Big Eight. I'm not sure anyone will knock the mighty Panthers off the conference throne, but they do play the Crusaders and Spartan in back-to-back games Nov. 1 and Nov. 8. Can't wait.
Playing against Nyheim Hines isn't really fair
In a huge game between Garner (6-2, 2-1) and Clayton (5-3, 1-2), the Trojan running back saw the endzone on five separate occasions. Hines scored on the ground, as a receiver and as a kick returner in the 35-28 win over the Comets.
So maybe we've known how good Hines is for a while now. Just wanted to reinforce the monster numbers the kid is putting up. 28 touchdowns so far on the year? The next closest running back still only has 18 scores (Isaac Martin, Cleveland). I wouldn't want to try to defend him.
Southern Nash isn't invincible, but Fike may be
The blockbuster game in Wilson put the Southern Nash Firebirds (6-1, 0-1) up against the Fike Demons (7-0, 1-0).
I've been riding the Southern Nash bandwagon since the beginning of the year, frequently trying to draw support for them in our polls. When the Firebirds edged out Tarboro--who doesn't lose much--last week, I thought the Firebirds had a good shot to run the table and win the Big East. But Fike stood in the way, along with its 38.4 points per game.
The Big East race will be something to watch from here on out after two of the conference's premiere teams squared off in the first week of league play. Hunt and Rocky Mount will also do their best to have a say in the final standings.
Icing the kicker frequently blows up in your face
The SWAC headliner this week saw Panther Creek and Middle Creek go toe-to-toe. The Catamounts looked take the battle of the Creeks on an impressive scoring drive in the fourth quarter to go up 21-20.
With 1.8 left on the clock, Middle Creek's Michael Rubino took the field to kick the game-winning field goal. What a tremendous amount of pressure to put on a high school kid. The pressure got to Rubino and the kick was wide left.
But wait! A timeout was called right before the play and Rubino got another shot, nailing the field goal as time expired to put the Mustangs ahead in the final box score, 23-21. A thrilling finish to one of the best SWAC games of the year, but really... no timeout and PC wins. That'll keep someone awake at night.
These kids are just kids
Finally, Saturday afternoon's spectacle involved a press conference at Leesville Road High School where star recruit Braxton Berrios gave a verbal commitment to the University of Miami. Congratulations to Berrios, Miami and the Leesville program. All were winners this weekend.
As I stood in the circus of media and fans Saturday afternoon, it dawned on me how much highly sought-after recruits have to go through each year to navigate the seas of college recruitment processes. Berrios attracted several news outlets, dozens of family members and hundreds of community members to hear the announcement, and I have no doubt the kid has faced a tremendous amount of pressure on the recruiting ride he has had this year. And this idea is not exclusive to Berrios or any other individual football player.
At the end of the day, high school football players in their simplest form are high school students--16, 17 and 18 year old kids asked to make a decision that will impact the rest of their lives. I don't know what you were doing in high school, but I was never faced with that kind of responsibility. Next time you start to criticize a team or a specific player on a team--which is very easy to do when getting caught up in the emotions of sports--stop and remember that.
As the well-dressed Berrios said after his decision, "I'm just a young man trying to live out a dream and trying to make my family and everybody happy."
Hats off to you Berrios, and the rest of our high school athletes.