By Nick Phillips, RMHS iHigh.com correspondent
The time has come again. Summer is winding down and kids are preparing for school. This could only mean one thing….it’s high school football season!!
As a new Rocky Mount alum and a doe-eyed freshman starting college life at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, I find this time or year right now to be especially hard.
As a featured writer on the Gryphons' NorthCarolina.iHigh.com website and an avid sports fan, I am trying to come to grips that Friday night’s endowment contest at the Rocky Mount Athletic Complex against East Forsyth will be the first football game that I have missed in almost four years.
What a run the Gryphons have had over these last few years! Head coach B.W. Holt, now in his sixth season at the helm, has ‘righted the ship’ and has the Gryphons back at the top of the 3-A totem pole.
The Gryphons are ranked as the pre-season No. 1 team on both the NCPreps.com Preseason 3-A Football Baker's Dozen and WRAL’s Tom Suiter’s Fabulous 15, and they are once again considered to make a deep run into the playoffs.
Could this be the year the Gryphs knock off Western Alamance or someone else to make it to the state championship after knocking on the door for years?
Several marquee matchups highlight this year’s schedule, including:
- Game 2 – A Thursday night contest at Wilson Hunt. These last few years have produced some memorable games with late-game heroics.
- Game 4 – The Gryphs travel to former Big East rival and 4-A powerhouse J.H. Rose. Last season, the Gryphons ended the Rampants’ 39-game winning streak. Fireworks are bound to fly again this year as two of the better teams in the state hook up for their annual war.
- Game 5 – Hertford County (NCPreps.com's’ 3-A preseason No. 6 team) comes into the RMAC in what has turned into a budding rivalry. Two seasons ago, the Gryphons beat the Bears twice, in the regular season and in the playoffs - at home and on the road. Another close game early last season has this gotten this contest circled on the schedule, and the ‘Battle of the Bands’ at halftime and throughout the game is another plus.
- Game 6 – Southern Wayne (Homecoming) suffered two losses to the Gryphs last season , including Holt’s 300th career victory and a third-round playoff contest. Don’t forget the homecoming festivities at halftime!
- Game 7 – Northern Nash. Nothing else needs to be said. Rivalry game - with the NEW 6’s new schedule placing this as the Gryphons' first conference test. If the Knights post a couple of non-conference wins, this game could have some meaning and could be interesting. Northern head coach Chad Smith makes his first regular-season trip back to the RMAC.
- Game 8 – A trip to SouthWest Edgecombe. All the contests against the Cougars have all been great since SWE joined the NEW 6 conference. The Cougars are also ranked by NCPreps.com - coming in at No .11. But will this be a fourth edition of "Monday Night Football" with SWE?
- Game ??? – One question that’s not been answered yet is what game the Gryphons’ baseball team will be honored and receive their NCHSAA 3-A state championship rings. Look at games with Hertford County, Southern Wayne and Northern Nash as good possibilities. (Editor's note: Nick will get one of these rings. I feel like a proud papa!)
Remember last year’s Nick Hahula last-second field goal to give the Gryphs a rain-soaked win at Fike? Hold on to your hats as all NEW 6 Conference games have that type of potential.
This reporter and fan cannot wait for his first game this season, but for now I’ll have to be content with UNC-Pembroke football, which includes Rocky Mount alum Brandon Arrington, and the first night game in UNC-P’s brief football history. (Editor's note: RM head coach B.W. Holt is also an alum of UNC-P - Pembroke State in his era!)