08/14/06 — Chargers picked to win Carolina 1-A Conference title

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Chargers picked to win Carolina 1-A Conference title

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on August 14, 2006 2:20 PM

Ayden-Grifton picked up five-of-five possible first-place votes in the 2006 preseason Class 1-A Carolina Conference coaches poll conducted by the News-Argus.

The Chargers (25 points), which finished 11-2 overall and 4-1 in league play last year, return arguably the league's top running back in Daniel Greene. Paul Cornwell's squad brings back 24 lettermen, including seven starters on defense and five on offense.

"We played a lot of young kids last year that played significant roles," Cornwell said. "We also lost some leadership, but we're excited about the group coming up."

Picked to finish second with one first-place vote and three, second-place votes, North Johnston (20 points) won the conference last year with an unblemished 5-0 mark and marched all the way to the 1-AA (large school) eastern finals before falling at Wallace-Rose Hill. The Panthers have eight starters back combined from a team that turned in the best season in the school's history.

Tom Nelson -- formerly at Wilson Beddingfield -- takes over North Johnston's program in place of Ken Avent Jr., who is now the head coach at James Kenan.

"I've never coached a 1-A football game, so I don't really know what to expect," Nelson said. "But football is football. I don't think it will be a big drop in talent across the board. I'm just looking forward to getting into the schedule. I like that we are a hard-working group that has been successful the last couple of years.

"We're hoping to build on that."

Rosewood (16 points) also got three votes for second-place and was picked to finish third overall. The Eagles were just 1-4 in league play last year, but are much deeper and more experienced this season under veteran coach Daniel Barrow. Five seniors return on Rosewood's offensive line, which should bode well for quarterback Josh Myers, running back Devon Bennett and Co.

North Duplin (13 points) brings back junior quarterback Doug Lloyd and 14 total lettermen -- including nine starters on both sides of the ball. The Rebels were picked to finish fourth, but got three third-place votes. First-year head coach Hugh Martin believes the league will be balanced, especially in the middle of the conference.

"After Ayden, it's going to be very competitive. It was last year," Martin said. "I think there are going to be some hard-fought contests to fill out the other top spots."

Spring Creek (11 points) was picked just under North Duplin and received two third-place votes. The Gators have speed in quarterback Josh Wright and running backs Ronnie Butler and Orlando Grantham. Like most of the league's coaches, Spring Creek's Roy Whitfield considers the middle of the pack to be anyone's guess.

"If you look at last year and who's returning and coming back, I think it will be competitive in the middle of the league," Whitfield said.

Princeton (5 points) rounds out the poll as the Bulldogs will look to snap a 20-game losing streak. Coach Russell Williamson's squad is deeper and should feature better overall team speed as he builds toward the future with increased numbers in the 9th and 10th grade classes.

Poll process -- Each coach voted confidentially on the projected order of finish in the conference; 1-5 excluding their own team. A first-place vote was awarded 5 points, second -- 4 points, third -- three points, fourth -- two points, fifth -- one point.