EPC 2-A football - Greene Central picked to claim league title
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 16, 2006 2:21 PM
SNOW HILL -- One of the most-consistent programs during the last decade on the Class 2-A Eastern Plains Conference football scene has been picked to rule the league this fall.
Greene Central received three first-place votes and edged long-time rival Farmville Central 22-21 in overall balloting of the league's six head coaches. The Jaguars, a third-round playoff participant last season, also collected three first-place nods.
North Lenoir and Goldsboro tied for third with 15 points each. Tarboro High and North Pitt rounded out the poll with 12 and five points, respectively. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team.
Fourth-year Rams head coach Jim Bob Bryant appreciated the attention, but realizes repeating as EPC champ won't be easy.
"I don't think you can line up any Friday night and say 'we're going to get a win tonight,'" said Bryant. "I think it's going to be a battle every Friday night in our conference.
"I think, just like last year, our conference is going to have a lot of parity."
Greene Central seized the 2005 title outright with a victory over North Lenoir in the regular-season finale. The Rams picked up their fifth conference championship in school history and suffered a second-round playoff loss against Burlington Cummings.
Several starters return, including the two 2005 EPC players of the year -- senior quarterback Cameron Shelton and senior two-way starter Brandon Sutton. Shelton accounted for 2,200-plus yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns. Sutton posted 118 tackles and 12.5 sacks from his defensive end position.
The Rams return 15 starters and 24 lettermen overall. However, with just 34 players in uniform, Bryant's squad will have to avoid injuries to its key players.
North Lenoir, Farmville Central and Goldsboro all finished in a three-way tie at 3-2 a year ago. The Jaguars, who last won an EPC title in 1999, have eight starters back on both sides of the ball.
"Farmville is poised to make a push this year with some of the guys they have coming back," said Bryant.
Goldsboro returns one of the league's top rushers, junior Tremé Boone. North Lenoir has 14 starters back from last year's team that reached the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-AA (large-school) playoffs.
All three teams were picked to finish as high as second or as low as fifth.
"We just take that as a compliment," said fourth-year Goldsboro coach Maurice Jackson. "It's always a tough conference and some of these schools had great JV programs last year.
"We will be very pleased with a top-three finish."
Tarboro suffered through an uncharacteristic, three-win season in 2005. Third-year coach Jeff Craddock, who won the 2004 EPC crown in his first year, has dumped the old Tarboro "T" offense and plans to work with an I-formation scheme this season.
The Vikings return 14 starters, including all-EPC linebacker Kirk Heffley. A standout wrestler as well, Heffley notched 82 tackles, 42 assists, six tackles for loss and forced five fumbles a year ago.
Craddock plans to use the preseason prediction as motivation.
"Fifth? A perfect spot for us," said Craddock. "If had to rate us based on last season's performance and teams with the talent coming back, I'd place us fourth or fifth. Our conference is tough.
"Our expectations at Tarboro are high every year. I think we're going to be competitive and surprise some teams."
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