New Bern's offense a big test for Pirates in state title game
Porter Ridge’s defense is probably facing its biggest test of the year in Friday’s 4A state championship game.
The Pirates (13-1), who face New Bern High (14-0) at 7:30 p.m. in UNC’s Kenan Stadium, are going up against an offense that has scored 40 or more 10 times this season.
The Bears average 43.3 points per game, and have rolled up a staggering 6,649 yards of offense this season.
Last week, New Bern eliminated Scotland County 23-6. Scotland beat Porter Ridge (42-16) in the state championship game last season.
Junior Jerrick Robbins was a part-time starter on the 2011 team, and says he’s sensing a different atmosphere during Porter Ridge’s preparation this week.
“We needed to be tougher last year,” Robbins said. “I think the experience helps us for this year. Last year we were surprised we made it. This year we know we earned it.
“We didn’t take it last year. We have to take it this year.”
Taylor’s been terrific
Bears QB Josh Taylor (5-11, 175) is having an amazing senior year. He’s thrown for 2,505 yards and 24 TDs against seven interceptions, and also has 1,313 rushing yards with 15 TDs.
Taylor has eight rushing TDs and a pair of 200-yard rushing yards in the postseason.
“Their quarterback is good, he’s really good,” said Robbins, who starts at safety and running back for the Pirates. “We have to keep him contained.”
New Bern also has a big back in senior Jac Watkins (6-0, 225), who has 1,412 yards on 165 carries. Watkins was the workhorse in a 49-35 win over New Hanover in the quarterfinal round, when he gashed the home team for 240 yards and two TDs on 23 carries.
Taylor’s favorite targets in the passing game are seniors Bra’lon Cherry (5-11, 180), who has 35 catches for 706 yards and nine TDs, and senior Chandler Powell (6-0, 170), who has caught 37 passes for 697 yards and three scores.
“New Bern reminds me of Monroe, but they’re more disciplined,” said Robbins, who was studying film at home after practice on Tuesday night. “They’re big and they’re all athletic. They’re fast. They’ve got the athletes.”
Bent, not broken
After allowing just 6.2 points in their first 12 games of the season, Porter Ridge is giving up 24 per game over the last two weeks.
Obviously the competition is getting better, and the Pirates did play without two defensive starters last week (LB Bruce Randall and CB Casey Hardison), but their best chance for success is keeping the score down.
Randall and Hardison missed last week’s game with mild concussions, but both practiced on Tuesday.
A two-year starter, Randall ranks third on the team in tackles (77). He had 81 tackles as a junior, including a team-high nine in the state championship game.
Senior Nick Widgeon got his third career start in Randall’s absence, and contributed six tackles.
In a first-round win over Watauga, Widgeon had two interceptions — including a pick-six. Widgeon, who had eight tackles as a junior, has 24 stops and three takeaways in 2012.
Hardison, one of the fastest players on the team, has three interceptions and three fumble recoveries this season.
Junior Isaiah Duffy started for Hardison at cornerback last week and finished with four tackles and a pass deflection.
The Pirates don’t have a lot of players compared to most 4A schools, but they have a deep belief in each other.
“Nick Widgeon played an unbelievable game and Isaiah Duffy at corner played an unbelievable game,” Porter Ridge kicker/receiver Matt Wogan said after the win at North Davidson. “It’s a team effort, it’s the next guy in, it’s a family. If one of your family members goes down, the next one steps in and takes up for them.”
— E-J correspondent Eric Rape contributed to this story