10/21/11 — Stevens: Cougars defense improving

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Stevens: Cougars defense improving

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on October 21, 2011 1:48 PM

October 28 has been circled on Goldsboro head football coach Eric Reid's calendar for quite some time.

That evening the Cougars travel to Ayden-Grifton for what's become an annual meeting to decide the Carolina 1-A Conference championship. The two teams are both currently unbeaten in conference play.

Building toward that showdown with the Chargers has never been too far from Reid's mind all season. He's watched his defense pitch shutouts in each of the past two weeks after surrendering a combined 78 points in the previous three games.

Goldsboro (5-3 overall, 3-0 CC) held Rosewood to 47 yards of offense in a 41-0 win at Branch Pope Field two weeks ago. Karon Alston returned a fumble 48 yards for a score during the victory over the Eagles.

Last week, the Cougars forced three turnovers and limited Princeton to 155 yards of total offense in a 36-0 victory. Asunji Maddox's hit on Bulldogs' quarterback Brad Williamson led to Maddox's 66-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

Maddox and Davion Newkirk also picked off Williamson.

"I'm hoping it's a momentum builder for us," said Reid. "Hopefully it's a situation where the kids can buy into what we've been selling from a defensive standpoint. I think it's really been paying attention to detail. Kids are starting to understand the importance of watching film and paying attention to an opponent's tendencies."

Goldsboro began the season 2-3 and surrendered 61 points in an opening-week loss to Wilmington New Hanover. Three weeks later, the Cougars allowed Southern Wayne to rush for 351 yards in a 41-29 setback.

Reid and his coaching staff continued to preach the importance of remaining confident to his players while focusing on fundamentals. Since a 16-14 loss at Red Springs, Goldsboro has reeled of three consecutive wins and held opponents to six points a game during that stretch.

"We just kept the kids confident in themselves," said Reid. "The strength of our non-conference schedule helped us mature a little bit faster. We wanted to prepare ourselves for a conference run. We've gotten to know each other and we've started to believe in each other."

The recent strong play defensively has alleviated pressure off the Cougars' offense. Goldsboro has averaged 32 points and more than 270 yards of offense a game during its three-game winning streak. Junior quarterback Julius Murphy continues to throw for more than 100 yards a contest and the return of tailback Devante Harris from suspension has provided a spark to the offense.

"Our defense has been able to put us in good field position offensively," said Reid. "It makes it easier for us to score and puts everyone in a better comfort zone. We know in order to beat Ayden-Grifton we're going to have to be clicking on all three phases of the game."

The Cougars entertain Spring Creek today.