08/13/06 — One final tune-up for Falcons, Gators

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One final tune-up for Falcons, Gators

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on August 13, 2006 2:15 AM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Charles B. Aycock senior Montez Ham had just broken loose for a 50-yard catch-and-run down the left sideline during the game-situation portion of the Golden Falcons' scrimmage at Spring Creek on Friday.

As his team was on defense and he took a breather, Ham started getting a little anxious.

"I've gotta get back out there," he confidently told a teammate on the sideline.

Ham -- like many others -- is clearly ready for the 2006 season to officially get underway.

Ready or not, it's coming this Friday as Aycock opens the season at West Carteret, while Spring Creek hosts South Lenoir -- both N.C High School Athletic Association endowment games. Southern Wayne, Goldsboro, Rosewood, James Kenan, Greene Central and Princeton also open the season this Friday.

The scrimmage was the first and only of the preseason for the Gators and Falcons, so getting some of the kinks worked out against live competition proved important for both coaching staffs.

The first hour and 20 minutes of the scrimmage saw both varsity offenses rotate every 10 plays with the ball starting at the opponent's 40. Aycock quarterback Thomas Pilkington and Spring Creek quarterback Josh Wright engineered one scoring drive each during this phase. During the Falcons' drive, Pilkington had a couple of key passes to Kelton Lewis and Javoneta Taylor, respectively, while Dontay Taylor had some bruising runs inside and outside of the tackles.

"This is our first time seeing Dontay this year under live fire, but I was really pleased with how he ran the ball," Aycock coach Randy Pinkowski said.

Wright had a 20-yard run on an option keeper to the right, then later kept up the middle for a short touchdown run. Orlando Grantham and Ronnie Butler added a handful of strong inside runs each for the Gators.

Aycock's junior varsity and some of Spring Creek's freshman and sophomore players finished off the 10-play session with a couple of possessions each.

The next phase featured goal-line offense and defense as each team got 10 plays to see how many times they could put it in the endzone. Spring Creek scored on three of its first four plays, then Aycock's defense held the rest of the way. The Golden Falcons efficiently punched it in seven-of-10 times.

The final hour of the scrimmage then switched into game-situation, four-down mode with both teams starting at midfield. Spring Creek and Aycock fumbled and turned it over on each of their first possessions. Aycock posted one touchdown with the starting unit -- Ham's long run after a 10-yard pass from Pilkington to the outside. Falcons' back-up quarterback Stephen Strouse added a touchdown pass to tight end Michael King to finish the scrimmage.

"Overall this was good for a first scrimmage. But, there are many more strong opponents down the road for us," Pinkowski said. "These kids are going to have more opportunities to prove themselves as a player. I'm pleased, but never satisfied as usual."

Using a combination of Wright and Chris Ponce at quarterback, Spring Creek turned it over on downs three times and fumbled once. With Ponce under center, the Gators used Wright in the backfield and the senior had several first-down runs on pitches and sweeps.

"Josh runs the ball hard, and if we can get him in a position where he doesn't receive the snap ... we may do some of that," Spring Creek assistant coach Sonny Kilpatrick said. "We're toying with that idea of using him in the backfield a little bit."

On pass plays, Aycock's bigger defensive front often put pressure on Ponce and Wright and forced incomplete passes.

"Our blocking scheme is there if we'll just make the blocks. But, I thought it was a penalty-free scrimmage," Kilpatrick said. "We played a lot of people in a lot of positions and switched people in-and-out. Overall, I was really pleased."

Scrimmages are obviously crucial for the coaches and players to get a feel for Friday-night situations, but they also prove beneficial to referees as well. Approximately 30 refs were at Friday's scrimmage from both Wayne and Duplin Counties as it is mandated that each must attend at least three scrimmages before the season starts.

"This is just as much preparation for us as it is for the teams and players," said Jerry Johnson, a 32-year veteran of officiating and one of the local clinic leaders. "One of the big things is to get the younger guys to work with the veterans at the scrimmages. It's more or less an instructional type thing. We go over things in our weekly clinics, but it makes it so much more clear when you can see it happen physically."