11/06/10 — E. Wayne clinches share of ECC football championship

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E. Wayne clinches share of ECC football championship

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 6, 2010 11:11 PM

LaGRANGE -- Victory is like fine wine. It's years in the making and moments in the tasting.

This one took 32 years.

Eastern Wayne secured a share of the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference football championship with a 55-28 shellacking of North Lenoir on a bone-chilling Friday evening at Bullock Field. It was the program's first conference title since 1978 and just the second overall.

"I think we were picked last, weren't we?" said EW head coach Bubba Williams, who referred to the preseason ECC poll. "That's been up in the locker room for a little while and that's kind of fed (into the season) a little bit. The kids played hard, have worked their tails off the past year and have done some big things.

"We've turned the program around a little bit, but we've still got work to do."

The Warriors (8-3 overall, 4-1 ECC) tied with Triton for regular-season supremacy, but have seeding priority for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which begin Nov. 12.

North Lenoir concluded the year 2-10 overall.

"This team, nobody gave us a shot from day one," said EW defensive coordinator Glen Gardner. "We were picked last ... picked below North Lenoir, which hadn't won a conference game in four years. These kids have just excelled at every turn."

And once again, another opposing defense had no answer for Lamar Best. The diminutive, dynamic running back rambled for 222 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries.

Junior fullback Shelton Pender added 93 yards on nine totes. Quarterback Avner Clark rushed for two touchdowns and completed five passes for 88 yards, including a 54-yard scoring strike to Tykwan Days in the third quarter.

The Warriors owned a decisive 478-84 edge in total offense.

Eastern Wayne held North Lenoir to minus-10 yards of total offense in the first half. The Hawks' scores came on Maurice Morgan's 82-yard kickoff return to start the game and an 80-yard punt return after the Warriors failed to down the ball.

Morgan, in his final prep game, ended up with 103 yards and two touchdowns on just nine rushes.

North Lenoir managed six first downs and converted just one third-down opportunity in seven tries.

"To the kids' credit, they come in and take in the package, they listen and they got back to playing hard, which was the biggest thing, and believing in ourselves more than anything else," said EW Gardner. "It showed on the field (tonight). When we line up, do the things we're supposed to and play hard, we can play defense with just about anybody.

"The kids just played awesome. I didn't call one defense. They checked in and out of everything themselves (on the field) ... a phenomenal job."

And now the Warriors finally have that long-awaited league championship as a reward.