Tailgate Week 3: Back to the familiar

Laney running back Imeek Watkins gains a couple yards against JH Rose Friday during their non conference game at Buc Stadium. (Photo by Jeff Janowski)

Week 3 finally has all games in Southeastern North Carolina on a Friday night, which means everyone is under the lights at the same time. It's a week for familiar faces getting back together again: in rematches from 2012, old conference teammates meeting as non-conference foes, and another installment of the Duplin County rivalry series.

East Duplin (1-1) at Wallace-Rose Hill (1-1)

Reporter: Brian Mull (@BGMull for Twitter updates)

What to watch: Sweat the small stuff

In Week 2, Wallace-Rose Hill ceded a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown, had an extra point attempt blocked and lost valuable field position on two fourth-quarter punts that went 50 yards apiece with no return.

Despite those special teams blunders, the Bulldogs still managed to stay step-for-step with rival James Kenan in a disappointing 19-18 loss.

"As head coaches, sometimes we get caught up in offense and defense," Wallace-Rose Hill coach Joey Price said. "I try not to be that coach. We went back to the basics with special teams this week."

East Duplin also let a chance at victory slip away at Clinton. The Panthers led at halftime, but the Darkhorses won, 20-13, on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left.

Coming off narrow losses, Wallace-Rose Hill and East Duplin spent the week preparing for another tight game, knowing minor mistakes could make the difference. The teams will mirror each other in many ways, both staffs influenced heavily by the late coach Jack Holley.

The county rivals feature Wing-T offenses built on physical rushing, and the defensive schemes will look familiar, too. First-year East Duplin defensive coordinator Tim Jenkins helped lead Wallace-Rose Hill to 1A state titles in 2009 and 2010.

"Good competition makes you better," East Duplin coach Battle Holley said. "Going out and playing not very good competition, I don't think that prepares you. I think that gives you a false sense of where you're at."

N. Brunswick (2-0) at E. Columbus (1-0)

Reporter: Eric Detweiler (@starnewsvarsity)

What to Watch: New-look Gators

East Columbus coach Chris Haney didn't mind a Week 2 bye. In fact, the first-year coach welcomed it.

Just four weeks after Haney officially took over the job, the Gators started their season with a 28-15 win over rival West Columbus on Aug. 23. Since then, the film of that debut has been a valuable teaching tool.

"We played hard, but we didn't play well assignment-wise," Haney said. "We were hopefully able to fix some things. The bye week gave us the practice time we needed to get better. It seems like the kids are getting it."

Haney brought along major changes to institute in a short time. On defense, East Columbus is using a similar 3-5 formation but with completely new terminology.

The Gators started last fall with a spread offense but had switched to a two-tight end set by the postseason. This season, the team doesn't even list a tight end on the roster.

Senior quarterback Elijah Gresham, a 6-foot-6 converted tight end, rushed for two scores and passed for another in the opener, directing a read-option attack similar to the one employed by North Brunswick.

The teams have split their last 12 meetings, dating back to 2001.

"This is going to be one of our toughest games all year," Haney said. "Usually we're going to have an advantage with our speed, but they're just as fast as we are."

Clinton (1-0) at Laney (1-1)

Reporter: Tom Grady (@GradySportsNC)

What to watch: Laney's offense

After slashing Pender for 48 points in the first half of their Week 1 win, the Bucs have mustered only three points in six quarters.

Last week’s loss came against a pretty stout defense in Rose, and the second half of the Pender game included a running clock and second-team players. Still, Laney could use a good offensive showing to get back on track.

“It’s just one of those things where I think it will take one big play to get us going,” coach Greg Ditz (at right) said. “We feel we have some big-play opportunities. We just gotta have that confidence. It’s a lot about convincing these kids they’re good.”

The Darkhorses held East Duplin to one touchdown in last week’s win but had some lapses in their rush defense. Ditz said the Bucs will look to exploit that, but also need to get the passing game going. Both opponents challenged Laney by playing man-to-man defense.

“Our wide receivers need to take that as an insult,” Ditz said. “They need to take it on themselves to make some plays, and it’s on (quarterback) Tariq (Lane) to find them as well.”

Purnell Swett (1-1) at Hoggard (2-0)

Reporter: Vince Nairn (@starnewssports)

What to watch: Hoggard's injuries

The Vikings have a handful of starters who are fighting injuries, coach Scott Braswell said, including running back Keevin Thompson, lineman Malik Moore and defensive back Gene Beckwith. A few others have not played since the BB&T Jamboree, and Braswell said he will see Friday who is healthy enough to play.

"We don't have a lot of depth to begin with, so we really can't afford these injuries," Braswell said. "We brought some kids up from the JV team, and we'll have to coach them up."

Hoggard is coming off a comeback win against Irmo (S.C.) and crushed the Rams 53-10 in 2012. That could combine for a bit of overconfidence, and Braswell warned against underestimating what expects to be an improved Purnell Swett team.

"This will be the toughest game we've played so far," Braswell said. "It was a big win Saturday in that we came back, and it's easy to get distracted by that."

Four More Things To Keep An Eye On

5 – Meetings between former conference rivals James Kenan and Union in the past three seasons. The Tigers are 4-1 in those games.

51 – Points scored by Ashley in its 2012 win at Fairmont. The Screaming Eagles face the 2A Golden Tornados on the road again.

486 – Rushing yards for Topsail through two weeks, both victories. Expect the Pirates to rely heavily on the ground game again at White Oak.

2002 – The last time New Hanover started the season 0-2. The Wildcats travel to Wilson Hunt, seeking their first win.

Week 3 Schedule

(Off: Pender, East Bladen)

Purnell Swett at Hoggard

Clinton at Laney

New Hanover at Hunt

Ashley at Fairmont

Topsail at White Oak

North Myrtle Beach at West Brunswick

Southern Durham at South Brunswick

North Brunswick at East Columbus

West Columbus at Trask

East Duplin at Wallace-Rose Hill

Whiteville at West Bladen

James Kenan at Union

Rosewood at Midway

South Columbus at Loris

Red Springs at Eastern Wayne

North Moore at South Robeson

Southern Lee at St. Pauls

Harrells at Warren County

Princeton at Dixon

Spring Creek at East Carteret

South Lenoir at North Duplin

Lejeune at Lakewood

West Carteret at Croatan

Northside at Jacksonville

SW Onslow at Richlands

You Pick ‘Em

You've got until 7:30 p.m. to make your picks for Week 3. Go to the blog http://varsitynow.blogs.starnewsonline.com/22401/you-pick-em-week-3-2/ and click on the link in the Week 3 You Pick Em post. Good luck!

– Compiled by Eric Detweiler and Vince Nairn