Friday forecast - 'Tis the season
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 22, 2006 2:17 PM
Is it week six already?
It seems like only yesterday we were putting the finishing touches on the football kickoff section in the heat of the summer, and now it's officially fall.
I hear some places already have their Christmas decorations out. I'm all for celebrating the season, but let's at least get through Halloween first.
Speaking of scary, how about my 13-2 record over the last two weeks?
I'm a little surprised myself as I saw a lot of the recent games as toss-ups and figured pickin' .500 wouldn't be out of the question. Like several of the coaches in the area, I'm keeping my optimism guarded heading into the last few weeks of non-conference play.
So, what do we know at this point?
Charles B. Aycock, James Kenan and Greene Central are undefeated and Eastern Wayne is a few plays away against South Central from being 4-0 as well.
A great team will get their first loss tonight when the Tigers and Rams clash in Warsaw in what could be the game of the year -- considering both are unbeaten, state-ranked and look poised to contend for conference titles. Next Friday, the Golden Falcons finally host Greene Central in an Ernesto-makeup game that will be a fierce, final non-conference tune-up for both squads.
Aycock and Greene Central are off to historical starts, while North Duplin has already equaled last year's win total (three). But none of them seem to be caught up in the history (they'll leave that for us sports writer geeks). They're just playing football ... and winning.
The Rebels face back-to-back Super Six opponents in Hobbton and Union, which should offer Hugh Martin's team true measuring sticks. Bottom line, if North Duplin can win those two games, claiming the Carolina 1-A title also seems within reach. Keep in mind, the Super Six is a combined 22-5 as a league and a number of those wins have been against Carolina opponents.
Picked to finish near the bottom of the ECC, the Warriors travel to Apex on Friday and feasibly could head into conference play with momentum and a 5-1 mark. And I agree with coach Jeff Price's statement from a couple of weeks ago, "Once we get into conference play, I think you're going to see a lot of balance in the league from top-to-bottom. I don't think anyone is going to run away with it."
Watching how the ECC shakes out will be interesting.
There seemed to be no questions going into the season that Southern Wayne, Rosewood and Spring Creek all should be able to put up points as each has explosiveness in their respective backfields. Now, the three squads are each starting to find some defensive chemistry to go along with their offensive prowess.
The Carolina 1-A coaches predicted parity in their preseason coaches poll and more balanced Eagles and Gators teams will only amplify that fact.
After facing a tough Southern Nash team on Friday, the Saints' schedule sets up better than anyone in the county as they'll have a bye week heading into their ECC opener at Eastern Wayne on Oct. 6.
North Lenoir, which hosts Aycock this week, is easily the most snake-bitten team in the area this year. After having several key returners choose not to play football, the Hawks lost nail-biters to East Duplin and Kinston. After beating South Lenoir, North Lenoir ran out of time when rallying late at West Craven.
Wayne Jackson's squad may lack depth, but it doesn't lack fight. They'll be battle-tested and ready for Eastern Plains Conference play.
Goldsboro and Princeton are fighting the biggest uphill climbs as the season nears the midpoint. Both have played solid at times and have one win each to their credit. Unfortunately for the Cougars, theirs was taken away. The biggest problem for Goldsboro and the Bulldogs seems to be putting four good quarters together on both sides of the ball from week-to-week.
Whether they find that consistency or not remains to be seen, but Cougars' coach Maurice Jackson said it best, "The conference season is closing in quick. We need to start improving soon."
I'm sure that same point will be drilled into every program across the state over the next 14 days.
The picks ...
Game of the Year of the Week
Greene Central (4-0) at James Kenan (4-0) -- I won't be there, so if someone from either school can send me the tape, I'll gladly reimburse them. Both have speed, strength, depth and confidence and both have two of the brightest young coaches in Eastern N.C. in Ken Avent, Jr. (JK) and Jim Bob Bryant (GC). Kenan's at home and has a stout track record against quality 2-A schools.
My pick -- Tigers.
Saturday Game of the Week
Goldsboro (0-4) at Winston-Salem Carver (4-1) -- Well, it's the only one on Saturday. Carver looks to be just as good this year as they were in 2005 when they defeated the Cougars 42-28. If they can keep it close and compete, the trip to the Triad will be beneficial to Goldsboro, which has a bye week next week before its EPC opener.
My pick -- Yellow Jackets.
Tiebreaker of the Week
Eastern Wayne (3-1) at Apex (2-2) -- There's no tying in football! Well, actually there was last year when these two played to a 9-9 draw in regulation and had agreed beforehand to let a tie stand instead of playing OT. This one could be just as close and is the toughest pick of the week.
My pick -- Cougars.
2-2's of the Week
Southern Wayne (2-2) at Southern Nash (2-2) -- Did I just say EW-Apex was the toughest pick? Another one of those measuring-stick games. Southern Nash has beaten two straight ECC teams, Wilson Beddingfield and Wilson Hunt. If the Saints can win this contest -- as they did last year -- they will have taken out a quality 3-A opponent on the road.
My pick -- Firebirds.
Inter-area of the Week
C.B. Aycock (4-0) at North Lenoir (1-3) -- The records might point to a blowout in this one, but North Lenoir has been tough at home in recent years under Wayne Jackson. Aycock has to be careful not to look past one EPC foe, before another comes to Pikeville next Friday (Greene Central).
My pick -- Falcons.
Carolina vs. Super Six's of the Week
Midway (2-2) at Rosewood (2-2) -- The Eagles are coming off a bye week, so they should be rested. This is bad news for a Raiders' team that's already 1-2 against Carolina foes. Rosewood's speed from Devon Bennett and Josh Myers should be the difference.
My pick -- Eagles.
Hobbton (4-1) at North Duplin (3-1) -- This isn't a conference game, but it will have the feel of it as these two have been playing each other for years. The Rebels are unbeaten at home so far, but Hobbton's balanced rushing and physical 4-4 defense could pose problems for the green and gold.
My pick -- Wildcats.
Carolina vs. Coastal Plains' of the Week
Spring Creek (1-3) at Dixon (0-4) -- Josh Wright might rush for 300 yards. Can we reverse these two matchups ... let Spring Creek play Topsail and Princeton host Dixon? Might be a little more even, but probably too late for that.
My pick -- Gators.
Topsail (2-3) at Princeton (1-4) -- Topsail's coming off a 42-21 loss to an improved Trask squad and the Bulldogs had a disappointing effort at Chatham Central. This is Princeton's final non-conference test, so improving and gaining momentum is more important than winning.
My pick -- Pirates.
Forecaster's fortune: Last week -- 6-1 (.857). Overall -- 26-9 (.743).
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