09/21/06 — Game of the Week -- Unbeaten GC at unbeaten JK

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Game of the Week -- Unbeaten GC at unbeaten JK

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 21, 2006 2:07 PM

WARSAW -- A battle of titanic proportions?

Well, maybe not.

But neither Greene Central coach Jim Bob Bryant nor James Kenan coach Ken Avent Jr. seem too thrilled about Friday's matchup between the two unbeaten and state-ranked heavyweights.

Or are they?

"I think it's definitely a good test for us and they are obviously playing very good," said Avent Jr. "It will prepare us for the conference (season) coming up and the playoffs."

James Kenan leads the all-time series 2-1. It's the first-ever meeting between Avent Jr. and Bryant.

"They have already beaten some top-flight opponents -- East Duplin, (Jacksonville) Northside and Farmville Central -- three good 2-A teams," said Bryant. "They are, by far, the best team we've played in every facet of the game. The Avent boys have done an outstanding job getting these athletes ready to play week in and week out.

"It's going to be a battle -- a gauge where we are as a team and it will be a good measuring stick for us."

The non-conference affair is expected to test two teams that have been extremely stingy defensively this season. Each has a turnover ratio of plus-5 and neither has been too gracious toward opposing defenses by creating miscues of their own.

James Kenan (4-0) yields 9.3 points and 192.5 yards of total offense per outing. The Tigers have one shutout and have held two opponents -- East Duplin and Northside -- to two touchdowns or less.

Greene Central (4-0) hasn't allowed a first-quarter touchdown all season and has surrendered just one TD in the first half. Last week, Kinston forced the Rams to give up season highs in rushing (208 yards) and total offense (305) -- two statistics that didn't please Bryant.

"We have to play much better than what we did this past week in the second half against Kinston," said Bryant, whose team also turned the ball over twice. "We have to get back to the Greene Central defense that we were playing earlier."

The Rams have recorded 12 sacks in 16 quarters. Senior lineman Brandon Sutton, an all-state candidate, leads the team with five. J.J. Thompson and Eric Johnson each have three sacks.

"They remind me of Farmville Central defensively and maybe a little bigger up front than Farmville. They've got (quality) players everywhere and we haven't found anyone you can attack," said Avent Jr. "Our guys have to realize their defense is going to make plays, and that they can't get down ... let it affect us on the next play.

"We're going to have to make some plays ourselves and hopefully take advantage of their aggressiveness."

Greene Central averages nearly 28 points and 348 yards of total offense per game. Quarterback Cam Shelton, a two-year varsity starter, has thrown for 627 yards and five touchdowns.

Harrison Walston has emerged the Rams' top receiver with 17 catches for 300 yards and one TD. Thompson leads the ground attack with 75.3 yards per outing.

"The shotgun (offense) is tough to defend because they keep the field spread out on you," said Avent Jr. "It's something we haven't seen this year. We're not really changing our keys, but making some adjustments because they like to throw it, too.

"I hope the changes will give us an opportunity to be in position to make plays."

Greene Central threw 41 passes in last year's 26-6 loss at Snow Hill. Receivers dropped nine of Shelton's passes and eight other attempts sailed over wide-open receivers.

Bryant said the Rams could experience some success if the line gives Shelton time to throw.

"I want to keep it a close game until the fourth quarter with us up a little bit or down a little bit, so we can steal it in the fourth quarter," said Bryant.