It’s said you throw out teams’ records when they meet in rivalry games, but most of us likely chalk that up to coach speak. It turns out clichés are clichés for a reason: they’re true.
The underdog has captured two of the last three Mullet Bucket contests.
We’ll see if they can make it three out of four Friday night when East Carteret and West Carteret match up for the 55th year in a row.
Let’s face it; most years West is the heavy favorite. You’re talking about a 3A school of about 1,150 students taking on a 1A school of about 550.
The numbers bear this out. West is 35-18-1 over the 54-year history of the game.
The Patriots came into last year’s game having won nine of the last 10 in the county series with six of those victories coming by 28-or-more points.
And so West was going to walk away with last year’s game, right?
East, coming off a 46-6 loss to Washington, and West, fresh off a 17-0 shutout of Southeast Raleigh, looked like teams headed in different directions after the first week of the season.
But when Beaufort and Morehead City high school football teams meet on the field – something they’ve been doing for 70 years, going back to the original rivalry – anything can happen.
And anything did on Aug. 24, 2018 with the Mariners pulling off an eye-opening 21-14 win over the Patriots in front of an overflow crowd of about 2,500 fans in Morehead City.
Second-year East coach B.J. Frazier grabbed the West-themed, red, white and blue Mullet Bucket after the game and ran down the East fence-line to celebrate with a large visiting Mariners contingent. He then broke out a spray paint can and quickly turned the Mullet Bucket to an East-themed blue and gold.
The team traveled to Hwy 55 in Morehead City after the contest to celebrate with burgers and fries.
The East offensive line deserved double helpings.
Christian Gillikin, Aiden Richardson, Sam Stott, Stevie Conway, Logan Kreager and Ethan Fulcher controlled the line of scrimmage, opening the door to 227 rushing yards on 41 carries.
Jashawn Embry was the bell cow, totaling 161 yards on 22 totes. The bruising 6-4, 230-pound back had 104 yards on 11 carries in the first half.
Three years ago, again in Morehead City, another underdog captured a surprising win.
West was coming off a 3-8 campaign while East had gone 11-3, won its conference with an undefeated record and advanced to the third round of the 1A playoffs.
The Patriots, who were fresh off a 26-7 loss to Northside-Jacksonville in the first week of the season, shocked many by earning a 19-16 triumph. Second-year West coach Daniel Barrow ran to the track and raised the trophy high, much to the delight of the huge home crowd.
The Patriots ended up going 7-5 while the Mariners went 12-2 with another conference championship and another trip to the third round of the state playoffs.
A sea of yellow flags, 24 to be exact, was the only highlight from the first two quarters in that Aug. 26, 2016 game, but the teams tightened up after halftime, combining for 35 second-half points while giving fans a heart-pounding finish.
With East leading 16-13 and a little over three minutes left to play, Chris Luther picked off Mariners quarterback Jacobie Simmons deep in East’s own territory, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Terrance Raynor Jr. on fourth-and-goal.
The Mariners took over on their own 20-yard line with 1:19 left on the clock, and marched 55 yards in five plays before a scoreboard malfunction stymied the drive. East’s offense waited nearly 10 minutes before it could continue.
On the first play after the delay, Simmons connected with Malik Collins for a 6-yard gain on third-and-10 from the 25-yard line. On fourth down from the 19, Simmons called his own number on a scramble to the right, but he was tackled out of bounds a half yard short of the first down marker.
When the referees finally signaled the turnover on downs, the Patriot bench went into a frenzy. When the clock hit zero, players and coaches streamed out onto the field, embracing one another as emotions flowed freely.
And so who is the underdog this year?
Based on last year and the first week of this season, it’s hard to say.
The Patriots went 6-6 in 2018 with a trip to the first round of the playoffs. They suffered a 49-7 loss to New Hanover in the opening week.
The Mariners went 8-5 in 2018 with a trip to the first round of the playoffs. They were dealt a 58-6 defeat to West Craven in week one.
Both teams enter this season with little experience after losing most of their starters to graduation in the spring.
It seems customary to go with West as the usual favorite thanks to having two times as many students.
I’m pretty sure all nine members of the News-Times Football Friday Pick ‘em Panel will pick the Patriots, and I’m pretty sure most football fans in the county who don’t bleed blue and gold will expect a West win.
It will be up to East to pull off another upset and keep the trend of surprising wins going for another year.
(Send comments or questions to email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @jjsmithccnt.)