10/26/12 — Goldsboro faces strong challenge

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Goldsboro faces strong challenge

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on October 26, 2012 1:48 PM

Goldsboro wasted little time making its presence felt when it entered the Carolina 1-A Conference.

The Cougars have a giant opportunity to leave a lasting impression on their way out the door.

Goldsboro plays host to Ayden-Grifton tonight in its final game as a member of the Carolina 1-A Conference with the league championship up for grabs. Each team enters with an identical 8-1 overall record and 4-0 conference mark.

The Chargers won last season's meeting 42-18 and snapped the Cougars' 18-game unbeaten streak against conference opposition and denied Goldsboro its third straight league title.

The Cougars have reeled off eight consecutive wins since opening the season with a 67-6 loss at Wilmington New Hanover. Ayden-Grifton has won six straight games since a 30-18 setback at North Pitt on Aug. 31.

Tailbacks Rodney Nelson and Drew Turnage along with quarterback Brandon Larry provide a three-headed attack in the Chargers' potent running game. Ayden-Grifton is averaging 40 points a game and has averaged 50 points a contest against four league opponents.

Playing assignment football and taking the Chargers out of their comfort zone while forcing them into third-and-long situations is key for Goldsboro's defense.

The Cougars' defense has held conference opponents to 11.5 points in four league games. Goldsboro has tallied 15 interceptions and recovered 11 fumbles.

"They are pretty big up front and pretty athletic," Cougars' head coach Eric Reid said. "We've seen Ayden-Grifton's type of offense this year against other teams. We have stressed to our guys this week that they have to maintain their assignments. Hopefully, we can make them throw the ball more than they want to and use that to our advantage."

Goldsboro was haunted by big plays and missed opportunities in last season's loss to Ayden-Grifton. A pair of long touchdown runs and Kariym Gent's 52-yard punt return midway through the second quarter left the Cougars in a 21-7 hole at halftime.

Goldsboro converted just 1 of 8 third-down opportunities.

Senior quarterback Julius Murphy has engineered a Cougars' offense that has averaged 39 points a game and has scored 34 points or more seven times. Murphy has thrown for 1,691 yards and 26 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

Goldsboro has maintained its offensive balance by averaging 143 rushing yards per game. Sustaining drives and keeping the Chargers' offense on the sideline is another priority for the Cougars.

"It is going to be important that we can establish and maintain some balance early," Reid said. "The key to keeping Julius comfortable is making sure everyone is executing and that our receivers are catching the ball, the line is protecting him and the running backs are hitting the holes.

"He is our field general on offense, but we don't want him to feel like he has to go out and the win the game by himself."