11/04/10 — E. Wayne-N. Lenoir

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E. Wayne-N. Lenoir

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 4, 2010 1:47 PM

In 2009, the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference football championship basically came down to a two-team race.

It's been a little tougher this season. And Eastern Wayne remains in the mix.

Despite a late-season hiccup against Southern Wayne just six days ago, the Warriors still have chance to earn a share of the ECC regular-season title. They're locked in a three-way tie for the league's top spot with 2009 champion South Johnston and Triton.

"We talked a little bit about it last week and stressed it Monday (in practice)," said EW head coach Bubba Williams. "We can go from first in the conference to second with a loss. I don't think these kids have been in that situation.

"We have everything to play for and losing last week didn't hurt us. But we've got a lot to lose this week. It's a learning curve for us -- a big week for our football program."

Eastern Wayne won the Mideastern 4-A crown in 1978 when Dan Herlihy was starting quarterback. The Warriors also claimed their last playoff win in program history during that season -- a three-point decision over Rocky Mount.

Since then, winning seasons and postseason berths have been rare at Little Big Horn.

Until now.

The Warriors have won seven games in a season for the first time since 2006 and just the fourth time overall since 1990. They conclude regular-season play Friday at North Lenoir, which hasn't emerged victorious on the conference scene since Oct. 2006 -- a stretch of 20 consecutive defeats.

"North Lenoir has good athletes in spots who can hurt you," said Williams. "They're not a horrible football team. You have to execute your offense and defense. And, honestly, we have to fix our problems before we worry about anybody else."

Eastern Wayne struggled to close out Charles B. Aycock two weeks ago, and had its six-game win streak snapped last week by archrival Southern Wayne. The Warriors could establish nothing offensively in the second half, and Williams said that he and his staff have addressed line play on both sides of the ball.

Williams' team has surrendered 74 points in the last eight quarters.

"We need to go back to playing defense," said Williams. "We've given up way too many points (the last two games). Southern Wayne dominated us on both sides of the ball and that led to many problems. We didn't sustain a drive throughout the game."

The Warriors average 25-plus points an outing. Senior all-everything player Lamar Best has rambled for 1,500-plus yards and scored 20 touchdowns. However, Best was silent a majority of the second half against the Saints.

"If we get (the line play) fixed, we're going to be able to run the ball in the second half," said Williams. "Our preparation hasn't been very good so that leads into bad second halves and things of that nature, so we have to prepare better. How well we perform up front (Friday) will be key.

"If we can establish a running game up and we can stop theirs, that puts us in a good situation."

Eastern Wayne has won five straight against North Lenoir and leads the all-time series 9-5.