09/29/06 — Friday forecast - One more tune-up before conference play begins

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Friday forecast - One more tune-up before conference play begins

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 29, 2006 2:23 PM

For area football teams, this week offers one final test before the start of conference play on Oct. 6.

But passing that test -- meaning being prepared for league action -- likely will not hinge on winning or losing Friday's non-conference finales for the seven area teams in action.

Last year for example, six area squads suffered defeats in their final non-league game. Four of them -- Goldsboro, Spring Creek, North Duplin and Greene Central -- rebounded to finish over .500 in conference play. The Rams went 5-0 in the Class 2-A Eastern Plains Conference and won the league title.

Meanwhile, five teams won their final non-conference game; Southern Wayne, C.B. Aycock, Rosewood, Eastern Wayne and James Kenan. Of that group, only the Saints and Tigers finished over .500 in their respective leagues.

The lesson?

Well, there are several, but the most important at this point of the season seems to be -- don't get too down after a loss or let a win make you big-headed. There's still plenty of football left to be played and more meaningful games await every team.

But enough "coach-speak" or would that be "sports writer-speak?"

Let's take a look at how some of the area conferences are fairing as a group heading into Friday night.

The Eastern Carolina 3-A is 17-16 overall. The three Wayne County teams lead the way at 12-4, and a 1-2-3 finish in any order by C.B. Aycock (5-0), Southern Wayne (4-2) and Eastern Wayne (3-2) would do wonders for county football. I -- and seemingly most around the region -- expect Wilson Hunt (2-4) and Wilson Beddingfield (1-4) to improve as the seaon progresses and Kinston (2-4) is much better than last year. I don't expect many blowouts when these six squads matchup.

The EPC 2-A is sitting at a meager 10-24 with only Greene Central (4-1) and Farmville Central (3-3) at .500 or better. Both the Rams and North Lenoir are facing larger 3-A schools on Friday night and to the league's credit, they have all faced difficult (usually larger) opponents in their respective non-league schedules. Greene Central and Farmville Central are still the favorites going into conference play, but the EPC should even out in the middle when the head-to-head meetings begin. Goldsboro (0-6), North Pitt (0-6) and Tarboro (2-4) should be able to regroup after an open week.

The Carolina 1-A has a 17-14 mark and -- at this point at least -- seems to have the most balance of any of the leagues in the News-Argus coverage area. They've all played fairly tough teams in non-conference and some have won and lost to the same Super Six teams. The first Friday of Carolina action could tell us a lot as Ayden-Grifton (4-1) travels to Rosewood (3-2), Spring Creek (2-3) hosts Princeton (2-4) and North Duplin (3-1) goes to North Johnston (3-2).

If you're looking for dominace, look no further than the Super Six. The league is a combined 24-7 with two unbeaten, state-ranked teams in Wallace-Rose Hill (5-0) and James Kenan (5-0). Hobbton (5-1) and Union (4-1) aren't ranked but they probably should be and Lakewood's not far behind at 3-2. The Bulldogs and Tigers may both go into their Nov. 3 meeting unbeaten, but they'll both be tested. The only team that has struggled with consistency thus far is Midway (2-3) and they aren't an easy win by any stretch.

The picks ...

Game of the Year of the Week

Greene Central (4-1) at C.B. Aycock (5-0) -- Just as tough of a pick post-Ernesto as pre-Ernesto. The Rams are coming off a mistake-filled loss at James Kenan, while the Falcons continue to soar like never before in the Randy Pinkowski era. Neither team gets an easy win here, which will be beneficial to both sidelines. Greene Central has had Aycock's number in recent history, but it's hard to ignore the Falcons' 13-1 home record since 2004.

My pick -- Golden Falcons.

Rebound of the Week

North Lenoir (4-1) at Eastern Wayne (3-2) -- Both teams coming off tough losses but in different forms. The Hawks fell behind early, then rallied late before falling to Aycock, while the Warriors struggled from the onset of a shutout setback at Apex. This could be closer than last year's 33-14 EW win in Wheat Swamp, but the home team should prevail.

My pick -- Warriors.

Carolinas vs. Coastal Plains' of the Week

East Carteret (4-1) at Spring Creek (2-3) -- The Carolina Conference owns a 4-0 record against Coastal Plains teams this year, including the Gators' win last week at Dixon, but the state-ranked Mariners are a much different and more talented representative of the league. Slowing EC's Andrew Courman will be no easy task for Spring Creek.

My pick -- Mariners.

Rosewood (3-2) at Jones Senior (3-2) -- This was the closest non-conference game on the area slate last year, a 21-20 win by the Eagles, and it could be tight again. The Trojans are looking to extend a two-game winning streak at home (their first in six years). Rosewood picked up a forfeit win over Roanoke Rapids last year, but hasn't won a road game on the field since 2004. If the Eagles keep playing defense, that streak will end.

My pick -- Eagles.

Carolina vs. Super Six of the Week

North Duplin at Union -- Union is coming off a shutout against Lejeune and has already taken out two Carolina teams in North Johnston and Princeton. North Duplin is looking to bounce back after loosing a heartbreaker at home to Hobbton. They could be in for another dogfight on Friday, but they'll have to contain Union's no-huddle, single-wing attack.

My pick -- Spartans.

Last week -- 6-2 (.750); Overall -- 32-11 (.744).