Smith: The Carolina-Duke rivalry and Kinston football action
Yeah, beating your rival is cool but what about getting a ring?
Randomly, I posted a Facebook status and tweet asking everyone who takes sides in the UNC-Duke rivalry one simple question: Would you rather go winless against your rival in a season and win the NCAA title that year or beat them every time that year, but see them win the championship?
Although I expected a few answers toward winning the rivalry game, here’s the only response of the 31 I received in that manner (and technically it isn’t):
“Sometimes I just want to beat the (mess) out of Duke. I hate watching those throwback games with Jeff Capel launching that shot (in 1995). I don’t even remember who won it all that year or last year.”
Honestly, I forgot UCLA took the championship in 1995 and Villanova won the last one. Now, here are a few from the overwhelming majority:
“It’s cool to win the Battle of the Blues, but that doesn’t give you national clout. It’s like being the fastest kid in your neighborhood but you go to a track meet and get smoked. National recognition is much more important for recruiting.”
“Winless against them, but win the Championship because in the end UNC didn’t win the whole thing, Duke did and that’s all that matters.”
“Rivalry games are always a big deal and you want to beat your rival every time, but it’s not as important as winning a championship. I don’t want to be one of those fans that says ‘I don’t care if they win it all, we beat them.’ To me, they could lose to them every time they play in a season, but winning it all is something that has a more significant impact than if you beat your rival two or three times that season.”
In case it wasn’t known, I’m a Carolina fan all day. I grew up in a Tar Heel household with my father being the exception — he’s a Duke fan, but he was born and raised in Texas so he just went against the grain. If UNC lost to Duke, on occasion my mom would let me stay home just so I didn’t have to deal with trash talking the following day at school. There’s nothing more satisfying than shutting Duke down.
Except winning the national championship.
Of the combined 12 title years between these storied universities, neither team has lost all its matchups with the rival and won a title. There have been five instances — three for UNC (1924, 1957, 1982) and two for Duke (2010, 2015) where a team has won all of its meetings with the rival and the title, which is easily the most satisfying feeling.
Eventually, there will come a year where Duke wins the regular-season matchups and Carolina wins the title. Or vice versa.
Let’s translate it to sports locally. If Kinston falls to Greene Central two or three times this year in boys’ basketball, but wins the NCHSAA 2A championship, I’m pretty sure the Vikings fan base will be fine with that and it would be the same way for the Rams faithful.
North Lenoir baseball could probably go winless against South Lenoir without much issue of a title comes with it. Right? Then again, I’ve only known these teams for four years compared to my entire life with Carolina and Duke, so I may not be the right person to make assumptions.
Anyway, let’s look at Friday’s NCHSAA 2A third round matchup between Kinston and Northeastern.
NO. 4 KINSTON (12-0) at NO. 1 ELIZABETH CITY NORTHEASTERN (12-0), 7:30 p.m.
Playoff results: Kinston defeated Ayden-Grifton 13-7, Clinton 21-13; Northeastern defeated Fairmont 48-7, Wilson Beddingfield 28-0
Kinston averages 28.8 ppg, allows 14.8 ppg; Northeastern averages 45.3 ppg, allows 10.6 ppg
This is a matchup of former Big East 4A rivals; the Vikings and Eagles played every year in the BE4A from 1981-96, with Northeastern claiming 13 of the 16 wins. However, Kinston defeated Northeastern, 14-13, in a game to remember in the third round of the 2A playoffs in 2015.
As we get deeper into the 2018 postseason, the competition is tougher and Kinston will get its toughest test of the entire season. Northeastern is very well-rounded offensively with dual-threat quarterback Aaron Harris (1,087 yards passing, 60.7 completion percentage, 13 TDs, 3 interceptions; 87 carries, 1,348 yards, 12 TDs) along with a pair of strong running backs in Tyquan Mercer (1,022 yards, 14 TDs) and Traveon Freshwater (902 yards, 12 TDs).
Defensively, Adrian Spellman (16 sacks), Kaveon Freshwater (14 sacks) and Traveon Freshwater (12 sacks) have terrorized quarterbacks and Marcell Lewis III has four interceptions.
With all that said, doubting Kinston at this point to get it done probably isn’t a smart idea. The Vikings were called “the worst 10-0 team in state history” and the number has only gone up with a pair of close postseason victories. Yes, Kinston has eight wins by eight points or less and six in a row.
Yes, Northeastern only has one, a 42-34 season-opening victory over Greenville Conley. At this point, the focus is on going 1-0 on Game Day, something each team has accomplished a dozen times. It doesn’t matter how it happens — someone will be 13-0 after the final whistle.
For the Vikings to win this contest, their vaunted defense must continue to play well. Even though the Eagles can throw the ball, the team averages nearly 380 yards rushing per contest. Clinton rushed for 225 yards against Kinston last week, but the Vikings held them to 4.1 yards per carry. Offensively,
Quarterback Kieren Hooker and a strong receiving core of Jacel Jacobs, Khari Pitts, B.J. Luter and Demetri Holmes will be important, but running back Justin Holloway has definitely been an X-factor in the postseason. Holloway rushed for 89 yards and the game-winning touchdown against Ayden-Grifton in a 13-7 overtime win, then followed with 81 yards on 13 carries and a fourth-quarter score last week against the Dark Horses.
Here’s to hoping for a Kinston victory and if you can’t make the trip to Elizabeth City, the game will be broadcast on 960TheBull.com and 960-AM. Bryan Hanks, Jason Bryant, South Lenoir coach Jeremy Joyner and I will be providing commentary throughout.
Neuse News Editor Bryan Hanks contributed to this report.