11/03/05 — A cross-county slugfest

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A cross-county slugfest

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 3, 2005 2:06 PM

County rivals Charles B. Aycock and Southern Wayne have headed in opposite directions in recent weeks.

The Golden Falcons are 2-1 in their last three games, while the Saints are 1-2. Regardless of their current respective trends, only one contest matters -- Friday's season-ending battle at Hardy Talton Stadium.

The winner earns the final playoff berth available in Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference play. The loser falls into the "at-large" pool and hopes its overall record is good enough to qualify for the postseason.

Recent history favors the Golden Falcons, who have won three consecutive meetings in the series.

"We're both fighting for that third playoff berth and fighting for what could possibly be a home playoff game," said C.B. Aycock coach Randy Pinkowski. "(Plus) dealing with the county rivalry issue, it's going to be a tough, hardfought game.

"I'm sure everybody will play their heart out."

Veteran Saints coach Bob Warren admits the stakes are significant.

"We talk about the importance of each game as they come up," said Warren. "This is the next one in line and it just happens to be a county rivalry. These kids know each other and I'm sure each team is certainly going into this game with a lot of emotion."

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Playing a county rival with a playoff berth on the line puts enough strain on both teams' players and coaching staffs. But the tension is higher for Pinkowski, who learned learned Wednesday afternoon that Aycock has been placed in the 3-AA (large-school) bracket for playoff seeding. The school is a mere two students shy of making the 3-A (small-school) cut, according to enrollment figures released by the N.C. High School Athletic Association.

State-ranked Wilson Hunt, the preseason ECC favorite, and county foe Eastern Wayne (4-5-1) are also listed among the large schools. Southern Wayne, Kinston (0-10) and unbeaten Wilson Beddingfield (10-0) are on the small-school list.

"You've got to be kidding me," said a stunned Pinkowski.

The NCHSAA plans to release the playoff brackets by mid-afternoon Saturday. Until then, each team must focus on the current task.

Pinkowski feels the Saints (6-4, 2-2 ECC) are the favorite.

"I think maybe the nod has to go to Southern Wayne because they've got the big back (Anthony Council) and they have been running the football all over people," said Pinkowski. "We've been scraping ... doing everything we can to put points on the board. We have to get Council on the ground and not let him run wild all over us.

"We need to stop the run first and make sure they don't make big plays in other areas. We don't need to get too consumed (with Council) and give up something cheap."

Council, a sophomore, leads area rushers in total yards (1,596), touchdowns (22) and yards per game (159.6). Teammate Derrick Lathan averages 56.3 yards an outing and has scored six touchdowns.

The Saints average 269.8 yards of total offense and 22.4 points per game.

Warren said his team has spent the week working on blocking, particularly since he feels the Saints don't match up with the bigger Golden Falcons pound for pound on the offensive line.

"We just have to execute," said Warren. "We have to block a little bit, get some more seams for our running backs and hang onto the football."

Meanwhile, Aycock averages 28 points and 293.7 yards per outing.

Junior quarterback Thomas Pilkington has completed nearly 54 percent of his passes and thrown for an area-leading 1,416 yards. His main targets are Thomas Artis and Tim Alston, who have combined for more than 700 yards receiving.

Pinkowski added that he needs to get senior Spruce Lee back into the offensive mix this week. Lee continues to nurse an aggravating ankle injury and has seen limited playing time the last two games.

"Hopefully he's a little better this week, but I've definitely got to have some production out of him," said Pinkowski. "We have to be productive offensively. They put a lot of guys on the line of scrimmage and challenge you.

"They're a typical Bob Warren-coached team ... don't make mistakes, physical with big tackles and a big linebacker (David Combs) inside. They bring pressure defensively and you have to be ready to handle that. You have to stay on your blocks."