08/25/05 — Cougars and Warriors to meet in crosstown battle

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Cougars and Warriors to meet in crosstown battle

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 25, 2005 1:58 PM

Rivalry week comes early for two Wayne County teams this season.

Former Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference opponents Goldsboro and Eastern Wayne begin a series of county battles Friday evening at Little Big Horn. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

"It's Goldsboro-Eastern Wayne ... enough said," stated third-year Cougar coach Maurice Jackson, who spent time on the Warrior football staff in the late 1990s. "Whenever you play a county rival, your record is always zero and zero.

"We're going in there for a dogfight because we know those guys are going to be ready to play."

Eastern Wayne prevailed 15-12 in last year's meeting.

"It's a big game and we certainly would like to come out and get that first win of the season," said third-year Warriors coach Jeff Price. "We're ready to go play. You never think you're fully prepared because there are so many things you want to work on, but you've got a timeline to meet."

The Cougars enter the contest 0-1 after a second-half collapse last week at Rocky Mount. Meanwhile, the Warriors are playing their season opener. They've abandoned the I-formation offense in favor of the versatile wing-T formation.

Jackson's squad saw the misdirection offense last week and the defense yielded 363 yards rushing. The Gryphons averaged nearly eight yards per carry and successfully converted eight-of-11 third-down plays.

"We've been working on keeping the outside contained and working our responsibilities," said Jackson. "Looking at the film, a lot of our guys got caught up looking in the backfield. We didn't look at the guards and tackles, who will take you directly toward the ball.

"We need to read our keys, pin our ears back and go get them."

Having that early game could be advantageous for Goldsboro. Jackson and his staff have spent the week ironing out the kinks, fine-tuning some things offensively and feel prepared for the county meeting.

Price, on the other hand, is well aware that season-opening games can be mistake-filled. He's been pleased with his team's progress in scrimmages the past two weeks, but is anxious to see how that improvement translates in live game situations.

"To a degree, they do get tired of looking at themselves across the line of scrimmage every day," said Price, who is seeking his 30th career victory. "You do get to that point where you get tired of that, and it gets old."

Jackson said the Cougars will have to pay attention to senior tailback Al Graham, who rushed for 700-plus yards a year ago. Senior quarterback Tyler Ham directs the offense, which features wideout Riley Wilkins and a talented pair of transfers in the backfield.

Price doesn't believe his offensive or defensive line can match up size-wise with Goldsboro. The Warriors' biggest lineman is 250-pound Dion Nickerson. The next-biggest is Michael McCall at 245. Meanwhile, the Cougars have three linemen who tip the scales at 300-plus pounds -- Donald Pollack III (370 pounds), Mario Spencer (325) and Marcus Uzzell (324).

Spencer sustained a partially-torn meniscus in his left knee and is out for at least two more weeks. Center Sean Cox dislocated his left elbow and is also expected to miss the next two games.

Jackson and Price each admitted this week's game is an opportunity for their respective teams to develop unity.

"If they can keep improving week in and week out, they're going to have a fun year," Price said. "If they go out, make mental mistakes and not stay focused, it can be an ugly night."