DUBLIN — Be careful what you wish for is an adage that West Bladen football coach Russell Dove surely has tumbling around in the far reaches of his thoughts.
Two seasons ago, the Knights made the state playoffs for the first time in several years under the leadership of first-year head coach Dove as a No. 16 seed in Class 2-A — and drew No. 1 seed Northeastern and a trip to Elizabeth City. That game resulted in a 40-12 loss.
After a blip on the playoff screen that saw West Bladen miss the postseason in 2014 because of a regular-season fight with Heidi Trask that got three Knights ejected, Dove and 6-5 West Bladen are back in the Class 2-A playoffs — again as a No. 16 seed and again facing the uphill battle against a No. 1 seed. This time it’s 11-0 Kinston out of the Eastern Carolina Conference.
“We know what we’re up against,” Dove said. “But we’ve been preparing as best we can — the rain hasn’t helped — and we’re hoping for a good game.”
The Knights will see a fast, experienced spread offense from the Vikings that features numerous weapons, including senior running back Jeremiah Fields, a diminutive (5 foot, 3 inches; 140 pounds) but speedy back, and senior athlete Tavon Herns. Also a threat is senior quarterback Thomas Vermillion and senior fullback Malik Bryant. Kinston has scored 448 points in 11 games this season.
“They have a lot of good athletes, really good wide receivers and they are well coached,” Dove said. “They will be spreading us out all night, and I don’t think we’ve seen as good a passing team as they are.
“We’ll have to make adjustments to deal with their passing game,” he added.
Over on defense Kinston operates out of a 43 with a cover two, and the leader is senior Dy’quan Waters, a man-sized linebacker at 6-3, 240. The Vikings have allowed only 120 points this season.
“They play good, solid team defense,” Dove said.
For the Knights, Dove said the keys will be about the same as always: execute, block, tackle, avoid turnovers and penalties.
“We have to control the clock and keep that offense off the field as much as we can,” Dove said. “Our backs are going to have to hit the holes fast and run hard.”
West Bladen is expected to be at full strength for Friday’s game. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.