08/09/04 — Vikings, Eagles voted tops in ECC football

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Vikings, Eagles voted tops in ECC football

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 9, 2004 1:55 PM

KINSTON -- They say numbers don't lie, but the final figures produced Sunday afternoon certainly surprised veteran prep football coaches Clay Jordan and Lonnie Baker.

Graduation depleted each program.

Academic ineligibility also reared its ugly head at West Craven.

Key losses on offense and defense left Jordan (West Craven's coach) and Baker (Kinston's coach) asking numerous questions in the offseason. And they can't fathom the fact the rest of their Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference coaching brethren have picked them as the two front runners for this season.

Kinston received five first-place votes and garnered 59 points in an informal poll conducted by the News-Argus. West Craven, which has dominated the ECC since its inception in 2001, collected four first-place votes and finished two points behind the Vikings.

"Hmm," said Jordan, who voted Kinston No. 1. "I think you're going to see a little different deal here."

Wayne County rivals Southern Wayne and Goldsboro tied for third with 43 points. Coaches picked the Cougars as high as third and as low as fifth in the nine-team league. Meanwhile, the Saints grabbed one second-place vote and four third-place votes.

Charles B. Aycock was fifth with 41 points. The Golden Falcons received three second-place votes, but two coaches felt they might slip as low as sixth. Eastern Wayne was next with 28 points, followed by Washington (20), South Central (19) and West Carteret (12).

"That's great to know, but I don't know why," said Baker of his team's No. 1 selection. "We lost our 2,000-yard rusher, our leading receiver, our quarterback, our leading tackler and our defensive line.

"(But) we've had a good offseason."

Kinston posted a program-best 7-1 worksheet against ECC opposition and won a school-record nine games a year ago. The Vikings fell to Goldsboro in the second round of the NCHSAA 3-A (small-school) playoffs.

The success Baker had as a first-year coach didn't go unnoticed by his peers. But Baker, undoubtedly, felt West Craven is the team to beat when conference play kicks off Sept. 10.

"I still pick them to be first because they are the defending champions," he said. "They've got a program that's established and you have to pick them because they've been there."

"I don't think we're going to have a great team in the league. I think West Craven is going to come back to us (talent-wise) and I think everybody else is going to move up a little bit."

West Craven has been the kingpin in the physical and highly-competitive league. The Eagles own 21 conference victories -- with no losses -- and have carried the ECC banner deep into the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs each of the past three seasons.

However, teams don't win or lose on its laurels.

Success is based on what a team does between the lines each Friday night and how well it's prepared by the coaching staff. Repitition is a key ingredient for any offense and Eagles benefited from that last season.

"One thing that helped us is that we had some games where we were pretty well ahead by halftime, so we were able to give some of those back-up kids some playing time," said Jordan, whose team has averaged 12 wins each of the past three seasons. "Those are the kids who will have to come up and play."