08/12/08 — ECC 3-A coaches' football poll

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ECC 3-A coaches' football poll

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 12, 2008 1:37 PM

The gap of competition has slowly diminished since the latest realignment involving Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference football programs.

But one fact never changes -- Wilson Hunt is the team to beat.

League coaches, for the fourth consecutive year, tabbed the Warriors to rule the six-team conference. Coach Randy Raper's team received three first-place votes and 23 points during Monday's preseason meeting.

"I think every year the league has been in existence, everybody has gotten better," said Raper. "There is not that much difference between any of the schools now."

Wilson Beddingfield, which has 23 seniors on its 31-player roster, grabbed two first-place votes and ended up with 19 points. Eastern Wayne garnered the other first-place vote and took third with 15 points. The blue-and-gold Warriors were followed by Charles B. Aycock (13 points), Kinston (12) and defending league champion Southern Wayne (9).

Hunt won the ECC title outright in 2005 and shared the conference championship with county rival Beddingfield in 2006. The Warriors were 3-2 in league play a year ago and logged a nine-win season overall.

Graduation took 23 seniors, but left Raper with 10 returning starters -- five on offense and five on defense. Nearly 120 players reported for varsity and junior practice on the first day.

"(Our success) is a matter of how well we mesh together this year," said Raper. "We will be OK if we solidify our defensive front. Everybody knows that what wins a ball game is those linemen."

Like Hunt, graduation took its toll on Southern Wayne.

The Saints lost 16 seniors off last year's team which advanced to the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A (small-school) playoffs. Several quality players return, but gone is Kelvin Flow -- the 2007 News-Argus Offensive Player of the Year.

"It's a new year," said Southern Wayne coach Bob Warren. "We have a lot of question marks at positions vacated by graduation. I have no idea what this team brings to us this year.

"A lot of good players graduated from this conference. I'm guessing whoever wins will be somebody who is balanced. You just have to wait and see how it will unfold."

Aycock, coming off a 3-7 campaign, returns six starters -- three on offense and defense. Despite the low number, head coach Randy Pinkowski said don't judge the book by its cover.

The Golden Falcons' rebuilding phase has concluded.

"I think we will exceed what we did last year," said Pinkowski. "This league is similar to a couple of years ago when we had all that parody of anybody could beat anybody on any given night.

"I can see that happening again. There is no clear-cut powerhouse I see as being the front-runner in this conference."

Eastern Wayne head coach Jeff Price feels his team can challenge for ECC supremacy. The Warriors are coming off a 5-7 year, which included a fourth-place tie with Kinston in the league.

Despite losing several skill players to graduation, Eastern Wayne returns 14 starters -- nine on offense and five on defense. Younger personnel have filled the voids in the offseason.

"We'll be young, but I think our youth is talented," said Price. "I think we can be in the middle of the mix. It will be a competitive league again this year."