Rams ride success wave
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 23, 2011 1:48 PM
Coming off arguably the biggest win of his coaching career at Greene Central, Ken Grantham was in a rather subdued mood following a practice earlier this week.
Cool, calm and collected is the way the fourth-year head coach does business. Right now business is good in and around the Rams' program.
"The guys are excited about how far we have come and about the good start we're off to," Grantham said. "Football is a lot more fun when you're 4-1 as opposed to 1-4."
How the Rams reached the 4-1 mark has been impressive.
A season-opening win over archrival North Lenoir got the team in the win column. After a setback to Ayden-Grifton, a pair of wins over Wayne County 3-A teams Charles B. Aycock and Eastern Wayne put Greene Central on the right track heading into Eastern Plains 2-A Conference play.
The Rams dropped Beddingfield 21-14 in their league opener last Friday.
"Our goal for three seasons has been to be competitive in the conference and give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs," Grantham said. "The reason last week's game was so important is because it allowed us to get off to the right foot in the conference."
The Eastern Plains 2-A is widely considered to be among the best football leagues in the state of North Carolina. Two-time defending state champion Tarboro calls the league home along with perennial powers Kinston, SouthWest Edgecombe and the aforementioned Bruins.
An emerging Greene Central program only adds to the conference's already impressive lineup.
The Rams have personified the team concept over the first five weeks of the season. The team does not have either a standout rusher, an overloaded air attack or a major college prospect, so contributions have had to come from different players different weeks.
The keys to the team's success have been stingy defense, ball-control offense and solid special teams.
"Our two units really compliment each other nicely," Grantham said. "Our offense has been able to hold onto the ball and eat up the clock, and our defense has been able to keep teams from getting big plays that put us in a hole. Combine that with managing the field position and we have been able to dictate the tempo."
Rasheem Shackleford has emerged as a dual threat at quarterback with both the ability to run and pass. Fullback Kenzie Phillips is a grinder in short-yardage situations and Rashad Yelverton has shown explosiveness from the tailback spot. The trio has combined for 803 yards on the ground to go with Shackleford's 222 yards through the air.
"That group of guys has been in the program multiple years now and they have really grown," Grantham said. "This team as a whole is a lot of fun to work with because I think they fully grasp what the coaches have been trying to tell them the past two seasons."
The Rams will host North Pitt (2-3 overall) tonight for a game that could potentially help solidify a playoff spot.