11/18/04 — Golden Falcons soaring into unfamiliar playoff territory

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Golden Falcons soaring into unfamiliar playoff territory

By David Williams
Published in Sports on November 18, 2004 1:56 PM

A lot of people thought the end of Charles B. Aycock's playoff football game last week against Northeast Guilford was thrilling.

Some thought it was thrilling for no reason.

Golden Falcons coach Randy Pinkowski said he has received criticism for wasting precious time running the ball from inside the 10-yard line with under a minute to play when a short field goal would have given the Falcons the lead. Jon Burke did kick the game-winning field goal as time expired to give Aycock a 18-17 victory, but Aycock ran a play with under 30 seconds to go on third down, forcing the field goal team to rush onto the field and set up the game-winning kick.

"We got lucky last week, a little," he said. "To be completely honest with you, I did not have any faith in my kicker then. He's had some bad nights this season, and I was thinking touchdown. We decided to run it out to fourth down and let him take a shot at it.

"If you are in my shoes sitting on the five-yard line with 28 seconds left on third down, you have time to run a play and then run the field goal team out there and kick it. I needed to make sure I went inside and not get the ball spotted on the hash mark for the field goal, because that would have created a difficult angle from up close. We wanted to put the ball dead in the middle of the goal posts."

The kick gave Aycock its first-ever win at Hardy Talton Stadium, setting up Friday's second-round matchup against Wilson Hunt. The Falcons will travel to the Warriors' stadium in one of Aycock's shortest playoff trips on record.

But it's not like the road is a problem for Pinkowski.

"I kind of like it because I don't have to paint the field and prepare for a home game. A longer road trip would give us more time to unwind, get up there and get ready. I'm more worried about getting up there early and my guys will see Hunt on the field, then they'll get scared and not leave the locker room."

Pinkowski sees a lot of difficulties in playing the Big Eight North runners-up.

"They're one of the finest teams around," said Pinkowski. "Although they are different from Northeast Guilford, they are equal in size, strength and speed. It's another good, big, physical football team -- like it has been for us all year, playing the West Cravens, the Southern Waynes and the Kinstons. We are overmatched a little, physically. And everyone has better speed than us."

Fans should expect to see two similar teams -- teams that like their defenses and their running games. Zack Strickland, Lee Lee Pender, Ronald Wright and Marcus Sauls anchor the Warrior defense, and running back Jermaine Williams has eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau. A low-scoring game of field position is expected.

"That appears as thought it suits their strategy," said Pinkowski. "I'd love to score 30-40 points a game and put teams away early, but I don't have that type of talent. We have to scrape and claw and get all parts of the game working for us. If it does, the nature of the game becomes a low-scoring, defensive-oriented game.

"We are not going to go out and dead-cold stop a Hunt team. They will get ground. Our special teams has to be good and the offense has to get those yards back."

Pinkowski said winning the field position war and being able to slow the Warriors down is paramount to a win.

"He's got the complete package over there, and it's going to be interesting if we can take that," he said. "Hunt plays good enough defense to keep the score down, and we've showed that we can do that too."

A big advantage of a short road trip will be the opportunity for Aycock fans to make the short ride up Highway 117 to see the game.

"That's the thing I'm really excited about," Pinkowski said. "We played last week under God-awful conditions and a lot of fans could not get out to the game. Our students, our faculty and our parents -- this is the makeup game for them. They are such a big part of what we do here. They've put up with a lot over the years, and now that we are fielding teams that we can be competitive with, it's great for them to see it."