PINETOWN, N.C. (WNCT) — Three high school football teams from Eastern North Carolina will play for a North Carolina state title: Havelock, Tarboro, and Northside-Pinetown.
For the second time in more than two decades, Northside-Pinetown (8-2) returns to the 1-A state title game. Friday’s 47-6 win in the East Regional Championship at Northampton County last Friday locked their name into the state title game.
“The key thing for us was, the first two rounds, playing such tough competition, which we weren’t even picked to win,” said Keith Boyd, Northside-Pinetown head football coach. “We kind of used those to springboard us into the third round.”
Northside’s last state title appearance was in 2000, where the Panthers fell to Graham, 31-6. It was the last year before the playoffs went from four divisions to eight.
Boyd, an assistant with Northside at the time, reflected on his time spent as a Panther.
“Your emotions are a lot different because, you know, I wasn’t aware of how much behind-the-scenes stuff goes on,” Boyd said. “Now, I am involved in all of it.
“As an assistant, you don’t deal with the media and with so many things. Now, I am getting the chance to experience that and seeing how much the head coach at that time, Coach (Bing) Mitchell, was going through. I mean, it’s kind of nice to see it from both sides. It’s nice to see it for our community, our football team.”
The state championship feeling is all new for this squad of Panthers and the fans that follow. Most of the team was not even born yet when Northside last hit the field for its first state title game.
“It’s been a while and we are experiencing something that we’ve never experienced as a group,” said Boyd. “We are kind of all going through it together and learning from our mistakes and see how we can get them corrected.”
When playoff action rolls around, the goal is for all of the pieces to come together, which is what is happening as the season progresses in Yeatesville.
Coach Boyd says nothing is changing in terms of preparations, except for their next opponent.
“We are keeping everything the same,” Boyd said. “The only thing that’s different is the stuff going on around you. We are trying to stay grounded as much as possible.
“We are treating our practices exactly the same, doing the same things. Defensively we are making the same adjustments that we do week-to-week and same with offensively. We want to show the kids that we believe in what we are doing and we hope that that, in turn, makes them believe it will happen as well.”
With days remaining in the spring football season, he credits the team’s success to always sticking together.
“With the coronavirus, you know, it has been a totally different year,” Boyd said. “With help, we have managed through it. We have had to adhere to all of the guidelines that everyone else has had to do and got through it.
“Our kids stuck with us all the way. Our coaches stuck with us all the way, and our parents. We never came unglued.”
Northside will square off against Murphy (9-1) on Saturday at noon at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium, with hopes of bringing some hardware back to Beaufort County.