08/22/13 — FOOTBALL TAB -- ECC 3A/4A coaches favor less travel

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FOOTBALL TAB -- ECC 3A/4A coaches favor less travel

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 22, 2013 1:47 PM


With 40 wins, three consecutive appearances in the eastern regional final and a class 4-A state championship in 2012, New Bern undoubtedly wears a large target this season.

The question is can anyone knock off the Bears?

Despite returning just seven starters, including six on defense, the red and black is expected to dominate the Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference football scene this fall. No one has come close to challenging the program that's played for five state titles -- and won two -- since 2007.

Except J.H. Rose, which seized four straight 4-A championships from 2003-06.

Rampants head coach Dave Wojtecki thinks the conference, as a whole, will equal itself out in the overall aspect of sports. But it's hard not to spot the differences in football.

The larger 4-A schools -- New Bern, Rose, D.H. Conley and South Central -- usually have a better pool of athletes, top-notch facilities and consistent funding. The smaller schools -- Charles B. Aycock, Eastern Wayne and Southern Wayne -- struggle because the talent cycle changes due to a variety of reasons.

The jump from 3-A to 4-A is minimal for D.H. Conley and South Central.

"We already play Rose. We already play South Central," DHC head coach Brian Paschal said. "New Bern is a great program, probably the best in the state. I don't know if it's better or worse (to play up). Whatever cards you're dealt, you play and that's what we do at Conley."

The ECC is essentially two leagues within one.

Each school will play a full schedule, but round-robin results among their classifications will determine postseason berths in the 4-A and 3-A playoffs. The top-finishing team in its classification automatically advances to the postseason.

The rest put their fate in their respective league finish.

"When you're the big guy (in a split league), you wonder why those teams celebrate the 3-A championship," said Eastern Wayne head coach Bubba Williams, who spent time as an assistant at New Bern.

"But when you're the little guy, you kind of understand those things a little better. It's whatever motivates your kids to go out every Friday night and play. You have to play every week."