Left to right, Antonio Winstead, Travonne Marshall, and Tyquan Lewis pose outside the football stadium on Thursday.

Telegram photo / Emma Tannenbaum

Left to right, Antonio Winstead, Travonne Marshall, and Tyquan Lewis pose outside the football stadium on Thursday.

Tarboro has become the talk of the state after championship runs

By Jessie H. Nunery

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Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock isn’t one to hide his faith.

The voicemail recording on his cell phone lends some insight into his beliefs.

It would come as no surprise then that eight years ago, well before Tarboro made four consecutive NCHSAA 2-A state title appearances and won three straight championships, that Craddock grabbed a pen, sheets of paper and his Bible.

He wrote down his dreams for Tarboro’s football program – big and small – and stuck those sheets of paper into his favorite book.

Craddock now is experiencing everything he believed the Tarboro football program would become.

The Vikings are the three-time defending state champions, succeeding collectively and individually, and on top of all that, building legacies that are being passed from senior class to senior class.

“Part of what I wanted to see at Tarboro was that I wanted it to become one of the better programs in the state,” Craddock said. “I wanted to win state championships, but also, in the United States of America, when people heard of Tarboro, N.C. they would said, ‘You know what, I’ve heard of that school.’”

The program’s success is reaching a national level these days.

Shaun Draughn, a 2006 graduate, currently is a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Takoby Cofield, a 2010 graduate, is the starting left tackle at Duke.

Todd Gurley, a 2012 graduate, made his debut last week at Georgia and earned co-SEC freshman of the week honors.

It’s one thing to have played somewhere, but Craddock said each of the three have contacted him on multiple occasions this season to pass on words of encouragement to this year’s squad.

“They are big-time football players, but they’re calling to say, ‘You got to go get this one.’ They care so much about Tarboro football and our tradition,” Craddock said.

This season’s squad, currently in a tie for first place in the latest N.C. AP Top 10 2-A poll, is working to keep success in order.

It has a national standout in defensive end Tyquan Lewis, who will be choosing from a handful of Division I offers on Sept. 20. The Vikings’ offense, perhaps more diverse than it has been during the past two seasons, is averaging 41 points through three games.

“Going into this year, we felt like Quentin (Roberson) was going to be a great player for us, then with Travonne (Marshall) we were able to add a fullback,” Craddock said. “Then with Radja (Bobbitt) at running back and Aaron Moore at quarterback, we’ve been able to not rely on one, but four players that teams have to prepare for.

“The offensive line has done a tremendous job.”

Although the Vikings’ defense has struggled in junctures of each of the three games this season, players have picked up each other.

“We’re still a young football team,” Lewis said. “It’s a process putting people where they belong. We’re putting pieces together to become the kind of team we want to become.”

They haven’t stopped competing, and that attitude will become necessary when the Eastern Plains Conference season begins.

“I love the way we compete,” Craddock said. “We don’t panic. We fight, we work hard in the weight room and we practice hard. They’ve figured out a way to keep making plays. ... There have been times when I’ve been frustrated this season, and they get frustrated when they’re not playing to our level.”

Those frustrations are born out of high expectations that were written down, prayed upon and worked toward.

After three state championships with optimism for more, Tarboro has it’s recognition and success. If you ask the coach, belief started it all.

Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or jhnunery@rmtelegram.com