10/10/13 — ECC 2A football teams have struggled during preseason play

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ECC 2A football teams have struggled during preseason play

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on October 10, 2013 1:49 PM


Ayden-Grifton drew the bullseye.

Kinston and Goldsboro were the next targets in sight.

The remaining three teams -- South Lenoir, North Lenoir and Greene Central -- were expected to battle for supremacy in the bottom tier.

Now, no one knows what to expect when the inaugural Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference kicks off league play Friday evening. What appeared to be a clear picture in mid-August has turned into a muddled mess with five weeks left in regular-season play.

Goldsboro and Kinston are each 2-4.

South Lenoir and North Lenoir have won one game apiece.

Ayden-Grifton and Greene Central are each 0-6.

"It's about us getting better every week and trying to use the non-conference schedule to get us ready to play conference games, hoping that we're peaking at the right time of the year," A-G head coach Paul Cornwell said in the preseason. "If we continue to focus on ourselves (and) getting better, hopefully the rest of it will take care of itself."

The ECC has undoubtedly struggled. The six schools combined to compile a 6-30 record against 28 different opponents during the non-conference portion of their respective schedules.

Of the opponents they've faced, five remain unbeaten and 21 have records of .500 or better through seven weeks of play.

Goldsboro High head coach Eric Reid said he was "shocked" two weeks ago when half of the ECC teams had yet to register their first win of the season. It's conceivable that whichever teams from the league advance to postseason play, just one ... or maybe two ... could have a winning record.

Here is a closer look at Friday's ECC openers:

South Lenoir (1-5)

at Goldsboro (2-4)

Players to watch: South Lenoir -- Dion Jones (RB/SS), Noah Stroud (RB/DB), Brett Davis (RB/LB), Cody Ladich (RB/LB). Goldsboro -- Rasheid Malette (RB), Nashir Bowden (QB), Joseph Baker (WR).

Notes: These teams are meeting for the first time. The Blue Devils are making their second appearance in Wayne County this season after dropping a close contest at Rosewood in mid-September.

Goldsboro has the league's top-scoring offense (21.7 points/game) and best-scoring defense (27.8 ppg). South Lenoir, directed by first-year head coach Ken Grantham, averages just 10.7 points an outing and yields 28.8 points/game on defense.

Kinston (2-4)

at North Lenoir (1-5)

Players to watch: Kinston -- Tiquan Canady (QB), Qwarri Ham (WR), Kamari Parks, Deriante Rouse (OL/DL). North Lenoir -- Landon Baker (QB), Donyae Hopkins (RB/DB), K'haire Dixon (WR/DB), Dominique Mitchell (OL/LB).

Notes: Anything can happen in a county rivalry game and these two certainly know it. Kinston is on a four-game skid for the first time since 2007.

This could be a high-scoring affair since each team's defense gives up more than 32 points a game. The Hawks have logged 19 tackles-for-loss and three sacks, but forced just six turnovers on defense this season.

Greene Central (0-6)

at Ayden-Grifton (0-6)

Players to watch: Greene Central -- Austin Batchelor (QB/DB), Ronshon Bullock (RB/LB), Daryn Parker (WR/DB), Shyheem Carmon (RB/LB). Ayden-Grifton -- Drew Turnage (ATH), RJ Nelson (RBI), Justin Brown (DL), Walker Stocks (LB).

Notes: Obviously, somebody has to emerge victorious for the first time this season. The Chargers are 17-3 in conference play over the past four years. The Rams are riding a 15-game skid that started after a season-opening win over North Lenoir in 2012.

Ayden-Grifton has the conference's worst-scoring defense (39.7 ppg). Greene Central has scored 20-plus points on three occasions this season.