10/14/04 — Prep football -- Warriors, Cougars set to battle

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Prep football -- Warriors, Cougars set to battle

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 14, 2004 1:56 PM

County rivals Eastern Wayne and Goldsboro High don't feel a sense of urgency going into Friday evening's Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference football contest at Cougar Stadium.

But each knows that it's a key league game.

If the Warriors win, they become playoff eligible and pretty much eliminate the Cougars' chances of earning a postseason bid. If the Cougars prevail, they keep their slim playoff hopes intact.

Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Eastern Wayne (3-3, 3-1 ECC) has prevailed in three of its last four games. The Warriors have acquired some much-needed self-confidence and are staring to believe in each other, as well as the coaching staff.

Meanwhile, Goldsboro (1-7, 1-4) continues to struggle with its youth factor and mistakes -- particularly penalties and turnovers. The Cougars are the most-penalized team in the ECC.

"We've bee trying to make progress each and every week," second-year Goldsboro coach Maurice Jackson said. "We've been looking good in practice so far. The guys are working hard and I think we're finally growing up some.

"We're looking forward to a county rivalry game. We always do. Eastern Wayne is one of the teams that we don't really have to get the guys up and ready to play because it's a county rivalry, and for bragging rights."

The Cougars, who have celebrated Homecoming this week, are 0-1 against county teams this season. The Warriors are playing the first of three county games on their schedule.

Jackson says he and his coaching staff have taken a "tight" attitude nearly every day in practice. They've stressed having fun this week and playing just for fun on Friday night.

Eastern Wayne didn't play last Friday night, but certainly provided a wake-up call to its ECC foes after nearly upsetting West Craven two weeks ago. The Warriors have used the bye week to heal some bumps and bruises, and second-year coach Jeff Price hopes they kept the "fire in their belly."

"It's always going to be an intense matchup between the two with a lot of excitement and both teams wanting to do well," Price said. "I am sure it will be a big game for both schools.

"Each team will want to play for the win and we don't look beyond that as far as making any type of interpretation."

Discipline is the main intangible for each team.

Each must handle its adversity in a calm manner, execute when given the opportunity and capitalize on the other's team mistakes.

Goldsboro's size and its speed, comparable to West Craven, is a concern for the Warriors. They know it's imperative to work efficiently for everything they get.

"There are no gimmes," Price said.

Defense has been the Cougars' backbone all season, but the final scores don't reflect it. Most of the time, Jackson's team has had to defend a short field after special teams miscue or a turnover.

Goldsboro has allowed two touchdowns on sustained scoring drives -- one each against East Duplin and West Craven.

"We feel like we match up pretty good with them," Jackson said. "We're playing a team that's finding its confidence.

"They had West Craven on the ropes and probably should have beaten them. Our kids see that, too. They know it is not going to be a pushover by any team."

Still, both teams are looking forward to the county battle -- one of eight games involving five county teams this season. The Warriors have matchups remaining with Southern Wayne and C.B. Aycock.

Goldsboro's final county game is Oct. 29 at Southern Wayne.

Eastern Wayne is seeking its second road victory in three tries, while Goldsboro is searching for its first home win of the year.

"We might not have the most athletic group out there, but our players believe in what they're doing," Price said. "They trust their coaches, the coaches trust the players, and they go out and play.

"Goldsboro will be ready to play and it's going to be a challenge for us."