12/12/04 — All-Area - Pinkowski guides Aycock to 9-win season

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All-Area - Pinkowski guides Aycock to 9-win season

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on December 12, 2004 2:02 AM

PIKEVILLE -- Early in their careers at Charles B. Aycock, Golden Falcon coach Randy Pinkowski had several young players from the 2004 senior class approach him.

"They said, 'we are going to be the best team that comes through here in a long time,'" Pinkowski said.

With extra hours in the weight room, more intensity and focus in the offseason and several years of experience, their prediction came true in impressive fashion.

The Falcons turned in a 6-2 worksheet in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference, losing only to West Craven and Kinston by a combined four points. Against its four Wayne County foes, Aycock went unbeaten and outscored its rivals by a 26-10 average margin.

To close the regular season, Pinkowski and his senior-laden squad went on a four-game winning streak -- earning the Pikeville school's first home playoff game in two-plus decades.

"This group of 20 seniors broke every downward trend this school has ever had. They've done it all," Pinkowski said. "I hope that this group has set the bar for every team to follow."

Not satisfied, Aycock won that first-round playoff game against Northeast Guilford 18-17 with a dominant, second-half defensive performance, and a final drive and game-winning kick that won't soon be forgotten.

Pinkowski's best run as a head coach eventually ended at future conference foe and 3-A (small school) eastern regional champion Wilson Hunt in the second round. In the end, the three teams that managed to beat Aycock each had eight wins or more.

For these accomplishments and his ability to bring an heir of confidence and enthusiasm to the Falcon program, Pinkowski is the 2004 choice as News-Argus Coach of the Year.

With the 20 seniors returning, Pinkowski saw the potential in the preseason, but kept his optimism guarded as the season went along. The wins started mounting in the early season as Aycock went 4-0 after a season-opening loss to Clayton -- defeating Rosewood, Greene Central, Goldsboro and Southern Wayne to go 5-1. The Falcons then rebounded from losses to Kinston and West Craven to win five straight, including the playoff win.

Save a 52-point performance at Washington, Aycock wasn't flashy and did most of its damage with a hard-nosed style of play on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Wesley Whitley and running back Shonte Barnes -- both seniors -- led the ball-control offense as Whitley passed over 1,000 yards and Barnes nearly rushed for 1,500.

Defensively, the Falcons held opponents to 13.5 points per game with their 4-4 defense under coordinator John Fidler.

Pinkowski was quick to praise Fidler and the rest of his assistants.

"Trevor Pilkington called a couple of game-breaking plays, and the clock management on the final drive against Northeast Guilford was all Joe Strause. He was oustanding," he said. "John Fidler goes to the 4-4 and we play the type of defense I've always wanted to see us play.

"Coaches are part of my family, and they are the most important part of this. I'm blessed to have accumulated this group."

While each assistant has their role, Pinkowski takes specific pride in running the offseason conditioning and weight training program.

"The offseason program ... I probably do more with that than anything else. That's where we have made leaps and bounds against teams that were bigger and stronger than us," Pinkowski said. "We've been able to get our strength levels, speed issues and our small techniques.

"The only way I accepted this position is that football would be the only thing I can coach. Somebody had to dedicate year-round time to this thing."

The future?

Pinkowski is obviously concerned about the loss of his biggest senior class in his six-year tenure, but he will return six offensive players with experience and three on the defensive side of the ball. The Aycock junior varsity team went 9-1 with head coach Jay Westbrook, and "Pink" likes the work ethic of the young players in the program.

"The program is in an expectation mode now," he said. "You are going to work out, get stronger and do the footwork things in the summer."

Whether or not those expectations result in another season like this one, or better, remains to be seen. No doubt, the groundwork is certainly there.