Coverage Breakdown: Vardaman @ Lumberton
Players To Watch
Trae Owen | QB
The Rams’ signal caller has been through the thick and the thin. He was a part of a two-year winless stretch and has been a part of two-straight playoff berths. Now, his team is looking to him to their first playoff win since 2011. Vardaman is not a pass-heavy offense but can be dangerous through the air off of play action. Owen is also a threat to run the football, and his performance will be huge in determining if Vardaman can pull off an upset.
Patrick Pratt | HB/CB
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, Patrick Pratt will surpass 1,000 rushing yards on the season tonight. Pratt currently sits at 995 yards and 13 touchdowns and leads the Rams in receiving yards with 331. Pratt has intercepted 20 passes in his career as a defensive back, and some teams have tried to pass away from his side of the field. Pratt is the lifeblood of this Vardaman offense and will be worked in heavy doses tonight.
Zack Berry | DL
Another contributing member of the Rams’ big senior class is Zack Berry. Berry has accounted for 116 total tackles on the season with four of those being for a loss. He is a threat to break through any offensive line and wreak havoc in opposing backfields. If Vardaman wants to stop a powerful Lumberton offense tonight, Berry will have to play one of the best games of his career.
Jared Tribett | QB
The Panthers’ junior quarterback has put up impressive numbers this season. Tribett has thrown for 1,548 yards and 15 touchdowns and utilizes a talented receiving corps to its full potential. The Panther signal-caller has also rushed for over 200 yards and six touchdowns this season, so if the pass play isn’t there, he is a threat to scramble. Lumberton is a multi-faceted offense, but it starts with their talented quarterback.
Robert Henry | RB
While Vardaman’s Pratt will probably exceed 1,000 rushing yards tonight, Lumberton’s Robert Henry may not be far behind. The freshman (yes, freshman) Panther running back has accumulated 978 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground this season, both of which are team highs. Henry will not only be a vital asset for the Panthers tonight but for the rest of his career, as well. The Vardaman defense will have to try to contain the speedy youngster if they want to win tonight.
Donnell Buckner | WR
A major component of the Lumberton passing game is senior Donnell Buckner. Buckner has 640 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns so far this season and could have more before tonight is over. Buckner is listed at 6’5, and while the Vardaman defense is talented, they have no one near that height besides linebacker Wesley Casey. The height difference between the Lumberton receiver and the Vardaman secondary will be an important storyline to follow tonight.
Keys To The Game
Distance—Lumberton is 255 miles from Vardaman, and the Rams departed on their charter buses at about 10:45 this morning to make it to the field on time for preparation and kickoff. While four hours one-way is a long time to travel for a playoff game, the 1A schools must play the hand that they are dealt. The issue now is this: will the long ride affect the Rams’ performance tonight on the field?
Turnovers—Vardaman has had its share of turnover issues in recent weeks, but these will have to be eliminated if they want to defeat the reigning South Half State Champions. Against a team as talented as Lumberton, you cannot afford to turn the ball over. On the flip side, the same goes for the Panthers. If Lumberton has trouble holding on to the football, the Rams could find themselves in a position to win this game late.
Quarterback play—Both of these quarterbacks are talented, but will they play up-to-par when their seasons are on the line tonight? Vardaman will need to have some semblance of offensive balance while Lumberton will have to continue the balance that they have shown all season long. Can the field generals step up?
Road Trip—As previously mentioned, Vardaman is faced with a long road trip today. This could be one of the most important factors in determining the outcome of tonight’s game. Can Vardaman overcome the travel fatigue?