08/11/05 — Chargers picked to stay on top of Carolina 1-A

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Chargers picked to stay on top of Carolina 1-A

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on August 11, 2005 2:08 PM

With 2002 and 2003 Class 1-A Carolina Conference champion, Farmville Central, moving up to 2-A, a majority of the league's coaches believe the conference title will still remain in Pitt County -- like it has the last three years.

Ayden-Grifton (9-4 overall), who finished 6-0 last season in Carolina play, was picked to repeat as league champion in 2005. The Chargers garnered four-of-six, first-place votes from conference coaches and were picked to finish no lower than second.

"The kids have had a good attitude through spring and summer. We've set our sites on repeating as champions," said first-year Ayden-Grifton head coach Joe Cornwell. "It's a good league and everybody's going to be tough. Our guys are not taking anything for granted. You've got to have a little luck with you as well."

The Chargers weren't the only squad to receive first-place attention. North Johnston (20 points) and Rosewood (19 points) were picked to finish second and third, respectively. Each grabbed one, first-place vote each as the Panthers edged the Eagles by getting one more second-place nod. Neither were picked to finish lower than third.

Rosewood (6-6) claimed second in the league last year with a 5-1 mark, while North Johnston (8-4) took fourth at 3-3. The Eagles last conference title was in 1989 as they claimed five from 1973-1989. North Johnston and Spring Creek are now the only two teams with no league titles.

"It will still be a strong football league," Rosewood coach Daniel Barrow said. "Ayden-Grifton is the defending champ, North Duplin is always well-prepared, North Johnston is up and coming and improving rapidly, Spring Creek is getting better and better and there is new excitement at Princeton with coach (Russell) Williamson.

"It's going to be another great football league."

North Duplin (3-9) fashioned a fourth-place, 2-4 Carolina mark in 2004 and was picked to finish in the same spot this year. The Rebels received three, third-place votes and two, fourth-place votes. North Duplin, with four league titles since 1973, is the last non-Pitt County team to win a Carolina crown after capturing the championship in 2001.

"Losing Farmville is big, but Ayden-Grifton and North Johnston as the two bigger schools will be tough," North Duplin coach John Avent said. "Ayden's got a lot back after winning it last year and North Johnston has a big senior class. Rosewood, Spring Creek and Princeton are traditionally well-coached."

Spring Creek (1-11, 1-5) and Princeton (1-9, 0-6) took sixth and seventh last year and were picked to finish in the bottom two spots again. The Gators received nine total points, while the Bulldogs got five votes.

Neither coach is letting past defeats or pre-season predictions ruin their hopes for 2005.

"They might have a few more athletes, but if we do the things we do, we're going to be OK," Princeton coach Russell Williamson said. "We've looked good so far. We're an experienced team for a change. They jump right on what we're trying to do."

The Gators, now in their fifth season as a varsity program, also believe their is more room for optimism in Seven Springs.

"We've been missing leadership the last few years, and this year I think we've finally got it," Spring Creek coach Roy Whitfield said. "Some of these boys are going to be in their fourth year at the varsity level now."

The Carolina Conference schedule starts Oct. 7 with Rosewood traveling to Ayden-Grifton, Princeton hosting Spring Creek and North Duplin entertaining North Johnston.