OCEAN — Croatan football coach Andrew Gurley drew a line in the sand after watching his team drop a one-sided 34-7 contest to East Duplin last week.

The Panthers had more touchdowns (three) in the first quarter than the Cougars did first downs (two) in the first half on their way to building a 21-0 lead.

“I told them we have to do some soul searching,” Gurley said. “We can either pack it in, and try and have fun the best we can over these next seven games, or we can answer the call and turn around these next seven. I hope we can look back after this and see that it’s the week we turned it around.”

The next opponent, Beddingfield, is hard to get a handle on.

The Bruins, who will host the contest Friday, are 0-3 and have been outscored 127-6. Their three opponents, however, have gone a combined 7-2 with Hunt going 3-0, Fike 2-0, and Green Central 2-2.

Beddingfield went 4-3 in the coronavirus pandemic-amended schedule in 2020, but won nine games in each of the prior two campaigns.

“I wanted a tough schedule,” Gurley said. “I want to see where we are. I don’t want to find out week nine or week 10 that this is who we really are. I want to know now.”

The Bruins have struggled to get much going offensively, putting up 334 yards in three games. Malik Woodard leads the way with 143 yards on 45 carries, followed by Cristopher Atkinson with 108 yards on 38 carries.

Caden Barnett (7.7 tackles per game, 6 passes defended) and Sam Hoy (6.3 tackles per game, 3.0 tackles for loss) will look to keep those numbers low Friday.

Croatan has totaled 428 yards of offense in three games.

Alex Barnes sports 166 yards on 34 carries, followed by Brayden Stephens with 100 yards on 38 carries.

Croatan has put together a strange season thus far, falling by a combined 82-13 score against Havelock and East Duplin but beating a solid West Craven team 20-14, despite trailing 14-0 and losing its starting quarterback in the matchup.

Havelock is 2-0 and East Duplin 3-1 while West Craven is 0-3, which include losses to Havelock and New Bern (4-0).

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