CARTERET COUNTY — Two of the three high school football teams will be at home Friday for the last week of nonconference games without a county matchup.
West Carteret (2-1) will host Jacksonville, East Carteret (2-1) will host White Oak and Croatan (2-1) will travel to East Duplin.
Below is a breakdown of each team’s matchup this week:
The Patriots are coming off a 24-7 win at Farmville Central last week.
They are a game above .500, but both wins have come against two teams with a combined 1-5 record. This week, they’ll face a Cardinals (2-0) squad fresh off an early-season bye week.
Jacksonville defeated Southwest Onslow 14-0 in the first week and White Oak 38-6 in the second. The Cardinals finished last season 11-3 overall and ranked No. 1 in the 3A east before losing to J.H. Rose 35-28 in the regional semi-final.
West lost to Jacksonville 48-7 last season, but the Patriots defeated them 24-19 in spring 2021. Last year was the first time in 12 years the two schools weren’t in the same conference.
Like West, the Cardinals have an offense split evenly between the run and pass. Quarterback Jackson Taylor has completed 12-of-23 passes for 144 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His top target has been Julian Dorn with four catches for 67 yards.
On the ground, Rahiem Rainey has run for 102 yards and a score, while Camren Rivera has rushed for 99 and a score.
Against Farmville Central, West passed for 128 yards and rushed for 96. There were no statistics available from the loss to Havelock, but against West Craven in week one, the Patriots passed for 193 and rushed for 69.
Quarterback Jaylen Hewitt leads the team in offensive touchdowns with three. The signal-caller has also thrown 10 interceptions in three games. Keegan Callahan scored his first two touchdowns of the season against Farmville Central, Brian Garner scored one on the ground and another through the air against West Craven, and both Sean Cartwright and Justice Dade’El have caught touchdown passes.
The Mariners need a bounce-back after losing to Croatan 18-7 on Friday. They’ll look for that against the Vikings (0-1), who have only played one game this season.
White Oak was forced to take a bye in week one and then last week, its contest with Southwest Onslow was canceled. Its only game was a 38-6 loss to Jacksonville on Aug. 26.
In that game, what limited success White Oak was afforded came strictly on the ground. The team ran for 198 yards with a 4.7-yard average and only threw for 29 yards. The leading rusher was Aleni Mageo with 102 yards. Quarterback Damarius Hester rushed for 49 on top of 29 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Tyreek Shannon.
East didn’t have the best offensive performance in the loss to Croatan – 116 rushing yards and 23 passing – but the team is still an offensive threat week to week. Quarterback Jacob Nelson continues to be the biggest contributor, rushing for 325 yards and three touchdowns and passing for 238 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
The run game is balanced out by Antonio Bryant who has 254 yards and two scores. In the passing game, no receiver has broken 100 yards on the season, but Charles Matheka, Shamel Baker, Evan Taylor and Cody Shepard have all caught multiple passes. Baker has scored twice, while Jaedon Watson and Matheka have scored once apiece.
Friday will mark the first time East and White Oak have ever played each other in football. The Vikings finished last season with an 8-3 record and finished second in the 3A Coastal Conference behind West Carteret.
The Cougars are on a two-game win streak headed into their road trip to East Duplin (2-1).
They’re coming off a stellar defensive performance against East, but they’re facing a Panthers team that has beaten two teams by a combined 104-0 and their only loss was 58-57 to Princeton, the No. 12-ranked team in the 2A east, according to MaxPreps.com.
East Duplin is ranked No. 18 in the classification, lower than expected, mostly due to its minus-29.4 strength of schedule with wins coming against teams with a combined 1-5 record.
The Panther offense is one that leans on the run but is capable of chewing up yards through the air. The team has put up 1,260 total yards in three games, with a majority 911 coming on the ground, but the passing game is averaging 26.8 yards per throw.
Avery Gaby is the leading rusher with 462 yards and nine touchdowns, while signal-caller Zack Brown has thrown for 315 yards and seven touchdowns. His leading receiver is Teyshawn Johnson with 99 yards and three scores.
It’s no secret what Croatan likes to do on offense. A whopping 890 of the team’s 919 total yards have come on the ground, as well as all 11 offensive touchdowns.
Brayden Stephens has proven to be an effective lead back for the unit, rushing for 640 yards on 82 carries (7.8-yard average) and scoring seven touchdowns. Anthony Bentz has 180 yards and three scores.
Croatan battled East Duplin last season, losing 34-7. The two teams also met in the first round of the 2019 state playoffs, with the Panthers winning 21-13. The program has lost four straight to East Duplin, last winning 35-10 in 2015.