10/28/04 — Prep football game of the week -- Former coaching mates eager for ECC match-up

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Prep football game of the week -- Former coaching mates eager for ECC match-up

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on October 28, 2004 1:56 PM

Charles B. Aycock coach Randy Pinkowski and Eastern Wayne coach Jeff Price clearly remember the day late in the 2002-2003 school year.

Price took an assistant coaching position at Aycock and had been on Pinkowski's staff for one semester -- beginning in December of 2002.

The two already knew each other from Price's days as head coach at Kinston, but were just beginning to work on the same page -- on the same team.

Then, Price got an offer he couldn't refuse toward the end of the school year. Not just any offer, an offer from the cross-town and Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference rival Warriors.

It was an offer Price, who had lived in the Eastern Wayne community for a number of years, accepted.

"Leaving Kinston was difficult for me since I had been there for so long," Price said. "Coach Pinkowski, Charles Davis and Randy Bledsoe offered me a position, and I was looking forward to being an assistant coach for a while. They (Aycock) are probably the best staff in our county. They do a super job.

"When the position came open at Eastern Wayne, obviously I took it. It's been a transition ... the program needs a lot and we have started to address those issues."

Last October, the Falcons claimed a 26-7 win at Little Big Horn. Aycock grabbed a 19-0 lead at halftime, taking advantage of two Warrior turnovers and turning them into touchdowns.

"I think last year we were on the verge of still putting things together. Shonte (Barnes) was still coming around, and we were still struggling with personnel with the injury to Keith Cobb and several other injuries," Pinkowski said. "We got a couple of turnovers, and Shonte started to show what he could be. We were able to get out of there with a win."

One year later, the rivalry should have an increased sense of intensity. The Falcons, Warriors and fellow Wayne County foe Southern Wayne all sit in a three-way tie for third place with identical 4-2 conference marks and two games left.

On top of that, Aycock will be looking to go unbeaten against county teams this season, while the Warriors hope to improve on their 1-1 county mark.

"Things are tight, and I think it speaks to how well this league is coached," Pinkowski said. "There are a lot of good players and coaches in this league. There is a lot more parity in this league than some other leagues, but we just have to sort it out all the way to the end.

"It makes a coach pull his hair out, but it's good for the fans, community and kids."

Statiscally, Aycock holds the advantage on both sides of the ball. The Falcons are picking up 287.6 yards per game and allowing 214.3. Eastern Wayne is averaging 182.3 yards per game on offense, while giving up 264.8.

Falcon back Shonte Barnes gained 105 yards in Aycock's win at South Central last week and his "downhill" running style has produced 1,118 yards total this season -- 124.2 per contest.

Meanwhile, the Golden Falcon defense is giving up a league-best, less than 12 points per game. The Warrior defense is currently third-best in the ECC in points allowed with 146.

The Warriors are a vastly more balanced team this year than the one that gained just five yards rushing against Aycock last season. Bruising fullback Al Graham is putting up over 75 yards per game and has scored seven touchdowns in eight games. Graham missed a lot of action in last Friday's loss to Southern Wayne, but should be ready to go in Pikeville.

Warrior quarterbacks Zach Williams and Tyler Ham have combined to throw for over 800 yards with five touchdowns on the season. The duo, who have platooned much of the season, will need to be consistent Friday night to keep the Aycock defense honest.

"We had pretty poor offensive production last week, and it's a top priority this week," Price said. "We can't ask our defense to go out there and play tall and as big as they have all season long and we have zero offensive production. Our defense played a great game Friday night and the offense let them down."

Both teams take to the road to close the season on Nov. 5. Aycock travels to Washington, while Eastern Wayne makes the trip to Kinston. The Warriors and Falcons are currently both playoff-eligible, with four or more wins overall.

"It's unbelievably tight. I expected it to be tight, but I didn't know it would be quite this tight," Price said. "Every game for everybody is important. You are jockeying right now for the best playoff seeding."

Eastern Wayne is 2-1 -- 2-0 against ECC foes -- on the road this season. C.B. Aycock is 4-1 at Hardy Talton Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.