HILLSBOROUGH — Orange football coach Pat Moser says "We know what we're getting into” when his Panthers visit Havelock for the N.C. High School Atletic Association 2A East Region championship on Friday.
Orange football coach Pat Moser says "We know what we're getting into” when his Panthers visit Havelock for the N.C. High School Atletic Association 3A East Region championship on Friday.
"Havelock is just destroying everyone they play," Moser said this week.
Likewise, Havelock head coach Jim Bob Bryant said he feels he understands Moser's offensive scheme, which hasn't changed much since Bryant was offensive coordinator for a 14-0 Williamston team that beat Moser's Graham team 40-20 for a 1999 state title.
Moser, who retired briefly after Graham won a state championship in 2000, will admit he considered overhauling his strategies after his second team at Orange went 2-9 in 2009.
"I just decided I wasn't going to reinvent the wheel; I was going to stick with what I was positive would work," Moser said.
"We started a lot of young guys who took their lumps, and now that has paid off for them. I can't tell you how much fun it is to go from 2-9 to 11-2 in two years. It's re-invigorated me as a coach," Moser said.
While this year's shotgun-based Havelock team in far different from those run-run-run Williamston champions, Moser still sees some of the same intensity.
"Havelock has gotten a reputation in the past few years as a tough team to beat,” he said.
Led by University of South Carolina commit Pharoh Cooper at quarterback, Havelock has won 12 straight since losing 34-33 to 4A New Bern, which itself still undefeated heading into its showdown Friday with Scotland County. The Rams beat five playoff teams during the year by an average margin of 38.7 points.
Orange likewise has played some of the best. Its only defeats came against a pair of teams (Carrboro and Cardinal Gibbons) that ended their regular seasons undefeated and ranked in the state's Top 10 by the Associated Press.
"I think we've been battle tested," Moser said. "We’ve had four or five games this year against teams that are phenomenal, and we either won or at least held our own and had a chance to win at the end. That's encouraging for us."
Friday's NCHSAA 3A game pitting East No. 5 seed Orange (11-2) at No. 1 seed Havelock (13-1) will mark the fourth straight year that the Rams have been in the East region final. Havelock lost to Eastern Alamance in 2009 and 2010, and last year the Rams beat Cleveland 64-7 on the way to capturing the 2011 NCHSAA 2A championship.
Last week, Havelock pounded Washington 57-7 in the state quarterfinals, getting all eight of its touchdowns on the ground.
Orange expects to attack that with an almost perfectly balanced Wing-T offense.
Orange right wingback Jalen Pittman has rushed for 1069 yards this season and left wingback Patrick Pettiford for 1,019 yards. Quarterback Sean Motley has passed for 1,800.
Orange is on the road for the second straight week after defeating Mideast-pod top seed Eastern Alamance 14-13 in the state quarterfinals. Not a problem, Moser said.
"It's a long way to go for a football game, but we're just glad to still be in it," he said.