08/19/04 — Prep football previews -- Cougars set to battle Panthers

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Prep football previews -- Cougars set to battle Panthers

By David Williams
Published in Sports on August 19, 2004 1:57 PM

It may not be the time of year when the full moon turns into a football, but it is almost time to play a game that counts in the standings.

That's what seven area teams will be doing Friday night, launching into the season with endowment games. One of the biggest of those initial matchup will come to the Cougar Den as Goldsboro High School opens the season with non-conference 2-A power East Duplin.

The Cougars, under second-year head coach Maurice Jackson, will look to be ready at kickoff, but there is still a lot do to. The season is starting a week earlier than usual this year, and Jackson is reminded of the way he started last year -- rushing around trying to get everything ready and the best possible football team on the field.

"It feels a lot early," he said.

Last season, Jackson had to throw things together because he had only been named coach three weeks before the first kickoff. This season, he had a little more time, but still has more questions than answers as the Panthers roll into town.

"We only have two positions that are locked down offensively," Jackson said. "We know Jarrett Bryant is a tackle and we know Jacob Sykes is a wide receiver. Everything else is up in the air."

Jackson is still looking at combinations of players for the rest of the offensive line, which rotation to use for his running backs and which quarterback will start. Jackson said he may not decide to start Treme Boone or Adrian Lewis until game time, but both will get a lot of time under center.

"The only difference in the two is confidence and a take-charge attitude," Jackson said. "Treme has that kind of approach. Adrian is still young and looks to be directed."

While stressing that he wants the Cougars to win, Jackson acknowledged that in some ways, the season opener will be a lot like a scrimmage.

"We want to go out and perform, but we need to see how combinations will click with each other and figure out the running back and quarterback situation," he said. "But that first win is important, because we haven't had one under me. One of our goals is to go undefeated in non-conference play., so we have to get it or be set back in our goals. But we have to learn, and know our responsibilities."

The Cougars ran the ball a lot last year, and should run frequently again with running backs Aaron Phifer and Kelvin Ingram. But Jackson wants to get the ball in the air more this season -- especially to Sykes, a 6-foot-2 junior who has brilliant speed and is the kind of game-breaker Jackson wants involved in the offense.

"I want to get the ball to Sykes and all our other receivers," he said. "They are all young, they all run well and they all catch the ball well. We have been putting more pass in a run-oriented offense, and we are getting there. We want to get to pretty near a 50-50 mix of run and pass."

East Duplin, which went 7-5 last year and has 17 seniors back this season, is well-known for being a hard-hitting running team that pounds an opponent. That's just what Jackson is hoping for.

"They are well-coached, well-disciplined," Jackson said. "It's a well-put together team. Their blocking schemes are simple and done very well. They have low-to-the-ground linemen that will drive us off the ball if we stand up on the line."

But as far as hitting, Jackson thinks his club can give as good as they take.

"That's what we do," he said. "We love to hit over here. We've done an exceptional job of getting guys in here to play. I'd line my linebackers up against anyone -- they are big and fast, and they like to hit."

Game time is 7:30 p.m. Friday at Goldsboro.

Other games

C.B. Aycock at Clayton

Kickoff 7 p.m.

Last year -- Clayton 29, Aycock 0 in Pikeville

With a healthy Keith Cobb at running back, the Falcons will try and match muscle with a Comet team that is as versatile as they come. This one should be special for Cobb -- it was on the first series of this game last year that Cobb broke his ankle and ended his season. The Falcons appear ready to take on a tough team and see what they are made of before a double-tough conference slate begins. The line will have its weight-room strength put to the test and the secondary has to watch for the fleet-footed Comet running backs, famous for doing damage by running past linebackers.

Jones Senior at Rosewood

Kickoff 7:30 p.m.

Last year -- Rosewood 48, Jones Senior 0 in Trenton

The Eagles have less explosiveness without the graduated Javon Williams, but have a fleet of experienced backs ready to run the ball. The defense will play the first few games without all-conference defensive end Craig Montgomery, who is nursing a knee problem. Senior Josh Lane is the replacement. Running back James Reusch is also out with an ankle problem, and junior Derrick Bennett will replace him. Jones Senior has a new coach and should be much improved.

North Lenoir at Wilson Beddingfield

Kickoff 7:30 p.m.

Last year -- did not play

The Hawks open play in a game that should be a classic clash of offenses. North Lenoir has a ball-control, power-oriented running game that can lull a defense into a mistake. The Bruins are a classic bombs-away, wide-open passing offense that could put the ball in the air 40 to 50 times a game. It will be a great challenge for a North Lenoir defense that simply could not stop teams last season as well as it should have. Pressure on the quarterback will be a must and the secondary will get a full workout covering the speedy Beddingfield receiver corps.

South Johnston at North Johnston

Kickoff 7:30 p.m.

Last year -- North Johnston 36, South Johnston 24 in Four Oaks

The battle of the Johnston County rivals begins again as coach Ken Avent Jr. brings his bigger, stronger Panthers to Four Oaks. The game was a shootout last year and South Johnston will again have North Johnston outnumbered, but the Panther offense clicked a lot last year with Brad Holloman and Adrian Briscoe running the ball. Expect to see more of the same, but with the real change coming in the trenches. Watch to see how the North Johnston line handles a bigger and more physical team.

Heide Trask at Spring Creek

Kickoff 7:30 p.m.

Last year -- Heide Trask 32, Spring Creek 30 in Rocky Point

The Gators have some talent in a varied running game and an explosive big-play receiver in Lelo Burt. The big test for Spring Creek will be on defense, where in the past the Gators have not been able to deny an opponent, The defense has looked solid in scrimmages and the offseason conditioning may have help the program turn the corner. Trask is still developing its program -- like Spring Creek, Trask was created as a high school only a few years ago -- and this first test may tell a lot if the teams get into a shootout like they did last season.

Red Springs at James Kenan

Kickoff 7:30 p.m.

Last year -- Red Springs 34, James Kenan 12 at Red Springs

The Tigers got on a roll the last half of the season, winning five of their final seven games and losing only to powerhouse Wallace-Rose Hill. The Tigers may have played their best game of the season against Red Springs last year, and coach Kevin Motsinger still points to that game as the turnaround point for his team. With a quick-strike, no-huddle offense that likes to pass and a defense that reads and reacts with a solid punch, Kenan faithful are waiting for Motsinger's team to get off on the right foot.