08/13/09 — EPC 2-A poll ranks Rams fifth

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EPC 2-A poll ranks Rams fifth

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 13, 2009 1:46 PM

BETHEL -- Ken Grantham called it a decent assessment.

His fellow coaching peers picked Greene Central to finish fifth in the preseason Eastern Plains 2-A Conference football poll, which was voted upon Wednesday at North Pitt High School.

The Rams return 15 starters, including nine on defense, from last year's squad that logged a 4-7 worksheet.

"I think that's fair enough," said Grantham, who begins his second season in Snow Hill. "Last year was an introductory year as far as learning new schemes, getting used to a new coach and new staff, and new expectations compared to what's been done at Greene Central before."

And some expectations don't change.

Tarboro, the 2008 state runner-up, is picked to successfully defend its EPC crown. The Vikings received four first-place votes and 34 points -- one point and one vote higher than county rival SouthWest Edgecombe, which is making its second appearance in the EPC.

"I already believed that we were going to have a bullseye on us because of the run we had last year," said sixth-year Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock. "That's a good testimony to the hard work the kids have put in our program. It's an honor the coaches think two Edgecombe County schools are up there neck-and-neck."

League newcomers Kinston and Wilson Beddingfield collected 25 and 22 points, respectively. North Pitt was picked sixth with 12 points and Farmville Central (eight points) completed the seven-team field.

Craddock described the conference as a "meat grinder."

"I don't know of any other conference that has added the level of talent that we have added in one year," said Craddock. "The coaches coming in are awesome and the talent we already have in the conference is pretty strong, so you've got to be ready to play every Friday.

"One slip and any team can get you. This league is a meat grinder."

Tarboro has won two EPC championships with Craddock as head coach and five overall since joining the league in 1998.

Kinston claimed the Eastern Carolina 3-A crown last season with first-year head coach Battle Holley. The slow-talking, soft-speaking coach hopes that football can establish a winning tradition at a basketball-rich school.

The Vikings posted 10 wins last season, but must replace key linemen on each side of the ball and restore their linebacking corps. Ten starters return off last year's team, which surprisingly finished unbeaten in the ECC.

"Hopefully winning will get our community out to support these kids who put a lot of hard work and time (into the program)," said Holley. "Every team in this conference is capable of being at the top. You have a bad night and don't come ready to play, you could be in trouble."

Each EPC team has its own offensive identity.

Some prefer smash-mouth football, while Beddingfield will challenge opposing defensive coordinators with its fun-and-gun offense. Greene Central will utilize the triple-option offense.

"All these teams in this conference have gotten better and have high expectations coming into the season," said Holley. "Our goal is to win the conference and that should be everybody's goal."

Tarboro stands in the way.