Last week in this space, I chronicled the county’s strong representation in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. I planned on taking this week’s space to explore those with county ties who could earn the designation in the future.
Then the Mullet Bucket happened.
We’ll take a look at possible future members of the NCHSAA Hall of Fame sometime in the next few weeks.
This week, let’s take a look back at that crazy game from Friday night.
When the calendar turns from 2018 to 2019, I’ll complete 12 years at the News-Times. In that time, I’ve probably covered about 1,000 games. And in that time, I’m not sure I’ve ever covered a more surprising outcome.
We’re catching some grief online for our predictions in the News-Times Football Friday Pick ’em Panel. Each of the nine members of the panel went with West Carteret.
We weren’t alone.
Brian Simmons, who is as good as anyone at prognosticating football games, took West by 36 points at simmonsratings.com.
Unless you’re an East Carteret fan, you weren’t picking the Mariners in that game.
You just don’t see a team lose by 40 points one week – East dropped a 46-6 contest to Washington – and then win the following week.
Perhaps you see it happen if a team loses to a powerhouse one week and then beats a struggling team the next week. Washington and West shouldn’t fall in either of those categories this season. Both should be solid, sporting records above .500.
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.
In retrospect, it appears East’s lopsided loss to Washington was a bit of an anomaly. The Mariners looked good in offseason 7x7 contests and scrimmages and apparently had one of those Murphy’s Law games against the Pam Pack. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
West, on the other hand, looked pretty good in a 17-0 shutout of Southeast Raleigh in its opener versus the 4A squad.
And let’s face it. Most years, the Patriots are going to be the prohibitive favorite in the rivalry series.
After all, they’re a 3A program playing against a 1A program. The numbers bear this out. West is 35-18-1 over the 54-year history of the game. The Morehead City squad came into this year’s game having won nine of the last 10 in the Mullet Bucket matchup with six of those victories coming by 28 or more points.
Thankfully, the recent contests have been more competitive.
Three years ago, the game had many similarities. On the same West field, the Patriots, who were coming off a 26-7 loss to Northside-Jacksonville, surprised many by earning a 19-16 triumph over an East team that ended up going 12-2 with a conference championship and a trip to the third round of the state playoffs.
This year’s game was as good as it gets when it comes to county rivalry football. It wasn’t necessarily a well-played contest – the teams combined for five turnovers and 22 penalties for 202 yards – but it was spirited and tension-filled right up to the final whistle with a huge crowd of about 2,500 fans watching.
On the same field where an ugly late-game melee took place four years ago, this year’s contest was cleanly played with mutual respect on both sides. It was pretty cool to see East and West players take photos together after the game.
While disappointed with the loss, West coach Daniel Barrow couldn’t have been more complimentary of the Mariners and expressed his happiness for East coach B.J. Frazier winning his first Mullet Bucket in his second year as the Beaufort squad’s coach.
Frazier said his players arrived at practice on Monday after the Washington loss, and each one made a list of five mistakes they made in the first game and posted them in their lockers to check them off after each day of practice.
In the West game, there were still a few alignment miscues, but Frazier, mustering all the trust a coach can when leading teenagers, trusted Kam Smith and Geordan Livingston to take leadership positions and shift people around and get everyone lined up correctly.
The Mariners benefited from four first-half Patriot turnovers, with three of those coming in the red zone, but also nearly did themselves in with 15 penalties for 132 yards.
East prevailed and was rewarded with a heroes’ welcome in Beaufort. Law enforcement gave the team bus an escort and fire department trucks were waiting with horns and sirens blaring.
You have to love small-town high school football. And the 54th annual Mullet Bucket was small-town football at its best.
(Send comments or questions to email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @jjsmithccnt.)