By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 4, 2010 1:47 PM
I remember walking on to the practice field at Charles B. Aycock prior to the start of the season and noticing the expectations were as heavy as the sweltering mid-August heat.
The Golden Falcons were coming off a 10-3 season and a trip to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A football playoffs. Aycock returned senior quarterback Tyler Farmer and fellow senior receiver Craig Murdock. University of North Carolina signee Jarrod James was counted on to anchor the offensive line.
The loss of tailback Marcus Cobb, a 1,900-yard rusher the year before, was a difficult one, but 12th-year head coach Randy Pinkowski was confident Farmer, Cobb and others would step up and fill the void. Pinkowski declared the team to be "Tyler's team," and raved about the signal-caller's progression over the summer.
Defensively, the Golden Falcons expected to be faster than the unit that had surrendered fewer than 13 points a game in 2009.
All those expectations took a sudden turn when Aycock began this season 1-3. Among those first four games were back-to-back home losses to Greene Central and Goldsboro. The Golden Falcons were outscored a combined 77-26 in those two games.
Aycock struggled to run the football early since replacing Cobb proved to be more difficult than originally expected. Known as a multi-talented, big-play receiver, Murdock wasn't nearly as large a part of the offense as originally anticipated.
Pinkowski openly admitted he and his coaching staff needed to re-evaluate the ways Farmer and Murdock were being used within the offense. A 21-0 win at Wilson Fike in mid-September provided hope that perhaps things were turning in the right direction. That hope disappeared the following week in a 56-14 loss at Wilson Hunt.
Aycock played well in a 35-6 home win over North Lenoir and a 39-36 loss to South Johnston. The Golden Falcons rallied for 19 unanswered points but came up short in a 28-26 loss at Eastern Wayne that delivered a major blow to their playoff hopes. A 38-20 loss at Triton last week didn't help Aycock's postseason chances.
Farmer has thrown two or more touchdown passes in each of the past four games. He's passed for 279 yards twice this season and rushed for a season-high 111 yards at Eastern Wayne. His maturation on the field hasn't stopped in the midst of a difficult season.
Although the Golden Falcons (3-7 overall, 1-3 ECC) haven't lived up to their own lofty expectations this season there's one last shot at what's left of redemption. County rival Southern Wayne (4-6, 2-2 ECC) visits Hardy Talton Stadium on Friday night. The Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win. Aycock needs a victory to keep its slim playoff hopes alive.
If there's one thing I've come to learn about Randy Pinkowski, it's that the man isn't a quitter. A win on senior night in Pikeville won't completely erase the sting of what's been a disappointing season. It will serve as an opportunity for Farmer, Murdock, James and their fellow seniors to go out winners for a man who expected more this season.
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