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Best for last: Tarboro, SWE to meet in rivalry game

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SouthWest Edgecombe and Tarboro, seen here in last season's Sept. 15 game won by the Vikings, will meet again on Friday in the regular season finale. Both teams have won their respective conference championships, and have a combined 19 wins.

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By PATRICK MASON and SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writers

Thursday, November 8, 2018

EDGECOMBE COUNTY — When the prep football season began, back before hurricane season and the scheduling nightmare that followed, Sept. 14 was the date to mark on the calendar. 

A number of high profile games were scheduled, including a potential future postseason preview between Rocky Mount High and Havelock, while Southern Nash was scheduled to take on 4-A power Wake Forest.

But one game of dual local intrigue shadowed the rest — Tarboro and SouthWest Edgecombe. Week 5, now nearly two months ago, never happened as scheduled. But, thanks to an extended season and no remaining conflicts either way, the Tarboro-SWE game never went away.

As the teams prepare for a 7 p.m. showdown on Friday at Tarboro High School, the classic rivalry has brought a number of memories of past meetings to mind. And with both teams having won their respective conference championships to go with a combined 19 wins, it feels like the playoffs came a week early.

Coach speak

Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock: “This is one of the crown jewel games of Edgecombe County football. I’ve said it for years. You always hear the negativity of what’s not good in Edgecombe County, what we’re not doing well — it could be test scores or a high crime rate, could be poverty. You hear all these things, and this is one of those times where the whole county — not just Tarboro or SouthWest — where the whole county can shine.”

SWE coach Jonathan Cobb: “Tarboro is extremely talented and very well coached, and dominant in the area and have been for years. They’re our rival, and this game means a lot to our communities. It’s a big deal inside Edgecombe County. I don’t know that it helps either team or hurts either team with the playoff process, but I do know that our fans and communities deserve this game.”

Craddock, on playing SWE late in the season: “To have it at the end of the year, which I don’t think has ever happened since I’ve been here, last game of the regular season, both teams conference champions, what a treat for everybody. What a way to get our boys in playoff mode.”

Cobb, on closing season against Tarboro: “We haven’t done that since we were in a conference together, 2009, the last year it happened. We were both 8-0 and played on this field (SWE) and by 7 p.m. it was standing room only. It was one of the most amazing high school football atmospheres I’ve ever been a part of. This game is similar, but its not for a conference championship.”

SWE won, 22-16, that season and won the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference title.

Craddock, on the rivalry with the Cougars: “It’s just a lot of fun and it’s a clean rivalry. You play some rivals and it gets dirty and there’s a lot of trash talking and you start to worry about fights. You never worry about that here. I think it stems from the respect the coaches from both teams have for each other. That filters down to the kids. There may be some stuff on social media throughout the week because kids are kids, but when they start playing, it’s a hard-fought, helping each other up, knocking each other down, football game.

“At the end I always tell those guys, ‘Hey, go on and win a state title. I hope you guys do.’”

Cobb, on challenges of playing the Vikings over the years: “When we play Tarboro, there’s no secrets between us and them. Both programs are similar in philosophy and scheme, and it comes down to man-on-man. That’s where big challenges the past few years have come. They’re so strong up front and quick on the edge. I think at the end of the day we are going to have to battle hard and I’m excited to see what we do against them.”

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