‘Tis the season for the post-season

Published 4:04 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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The local landscape is on fire with the brilliant colors of autumn. Leaves changing from green to yellow, red, and orange fill our eyes as we travel our local roads.

That annual transformation of nature along with a nip in the air means two things…the start of the post season in high school is upon us and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

For me, that’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Without a full-time sports writer on staff here at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, I’ve counted on my past experience in that area of journalism to fill our sports pages. From 1989 until 2000, I served as the Sports Editor for the News-Herald and the Gates County Index. Even after moving over to the newsroom – during the time that Stephen Dunn, Thadd White, and Gene Motley served as the Sports Editor here – I helped as much as possible in sports coverage, especially during football season.

Friday nights still hold a special place in my heart….dating back to when I first covered high school football while working at newspapers in Tarboro and Garner. When I moved back home in 1983, I covered games as a sports correspondent while holding down my “day job” as a manager of one of our pre-press production departments here at the newspaper.

I wouldn’t trade for anything the time I’ve spent on the football sidelines for the past 42 years. I’ve had the opportunity to witness more than my fair share of great players and coaches along with fantastic finishes….way too many to mention within this limited space.

The 2022 regular season saw two of our local public school teams post outstanding records: Hertford County (9-1) and Northampton County (8-2). Both were rewarded with high seeds for the NCHSAA State Playoffs that begin this coming Friday (Nov. 5). Northampton won their conference and earned a #4 seed for the eastern bracket of the Class 1A playoffs. Hertford County, with its prolific offense that averages nearly 50 points per game, placed second in their conference and is seeded 11th in the Eastern Class 2A bracket.

Meanwhile, Gates County, who closed the regular season with four straight wins to finish 6-4 overall, is seeded 12th in the Eastern 1A bracket. Bertie also got on a hot streak late in the season. After winning only one of their first four games, the Falcons have tasted victory in three of their past five outings to finish 4-6 overall. Even with that record, Bertie is seeded 15th in the Class 1A playoffs.

All four of our local teams will be at home when the post-season opens on Friday. Northampton hosts Jones County in Gaston; Hertford County entertains East Bladen in Ahoskie; Gates County will remain at Easons Crossroads to welcome Washington County; and Bertie will roll out the “blue” carpet at Roy Bond Stadium near Windsor where Pender County comes to town.

I encourage everyone reading these words to go out and support your local team. Buy a ticket and a bag of popcorn and get ready to be thoroughly entertained for roughly two hours. It will mean a lot to the players and coaches of Roanoke-Chowan area teams to see the home stands full and loud on Friday night!

And while on the subject of local football, how ‘bout them Hawks!!

After losing three of its first five games, Chowan University has dominated the month of October, going 4-0 over that stretch. And it’s not like they have a weak schedule as their last two wins, both on the road, came against the defending CIAA champions (Bowie State, a 21-15 victory on Oct. 22) followed by this past Saturday’s stunning upset of previously unbeaten and nationally 11th ranked Virginia Union (26-21).

The Hawks are now 6-3 overall, but more importantly are 4-0 in the Northern Division of the CIAA. A win at home this Saturday (Nov. 5) against arch rival Elizabeth City State will clinch the divisional crown and earn Chowan a trip to the CIAA championship game on Nov. 12 in Salem, VA.

Do you know how long it has been since the Chowan football program participated in the post season? The answer is 1988 when they defeated Dean College of Franklin, Massachusetts in the annual East Bowl. Chowan was victorious in that same bowl game in 1981, defeating Jones County Junior College of Ellisville, Mississippi to mark the program’s first-ever post-season appearance.

It’s been a long dry spell for the Chowan faithful, to include yours truly who graduated from there in 1973.

Since Chowan made the transition to a four-year school in 1992, winning seasons have been far and few in-between. Their first winning season as a four-year institution came in 1999 where the team, coached by Steve Lee, posted a 5-4 record. However, that was followed by seasons where the then Braves went 2-7, 3-7, 0-10, 2-7, 1-9, 2-8, 0-10, 2-9, 2-8, 2-8, 2-7, 3-7, and 3-7.

Finally, in coach Tim Place’s fifth season (2012), Chowan broke that long suffering by posting a 6-4 record. Other than a 2-8 record in 2014 and a 3-7 mark in 2019, the Hawks began to win on a more consistent basis.

With former offensive coordinator Mark Hall taking over the head coaching duties full time in 2021, Chowan posted its best overall record (7-3) since its junior college days under the legendary Jim Garrison.

The Hawks can equal that record with a win this Saturday against Elizabeth City State, thus giving the program the opportunity to win at least eight games for the first time since Garrison’s nine-win season that was highlighted with the East Bowl victory in 1981.

I encourage you to fill the stands at James G. Garrison Stadium this Saturday when the Hawks welcome Elizabeth City State to Murfreesboro. Kickoff is at 1 pm.

It’s also Hall of Fame weekend at Chowan where former student-athletes Cliff Forbes (Men’s Golf), Butch Gibson (Football), Lisa Knieriemen Rogers (Women’s Soccer), Mark Long (Football), Karina Monroe (Volleyball), Thurman Taylor (Football) and the late CC Vaughan (Women’s Basketball) along with Ray Felton (Patron) will be honored at halftime as well as at a banquet that same evening.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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