08/10/17 — FOOTBALL PREVIEW: James seeks new attitude, confidence from Goldsboro

View Archive

FOOTBALL PREVIEW: James seeks new attitude, confidence from Goldsboro

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 10, 2017 5:52 AM


Elvin James slid the DVD into the open slot.

The door whirred shut.

He pushed the play button on the remote.

The once-dark TV screen brightened as the game film started to run.

James stopped and backed it up a couple of frames. The short pauses gave him chances to note where everyone lined up on certain plays. On several occasions he viewed an unpleasant common trend.

"Fundamental skills," he said.

A meticulously detailed coach, James saw more.

Goldsboro, on numerous occasions, emerged as its own worst enemy with poor communication, costly penalties and an overall lack of confidence. The Cougars limped to a 1-10 season and missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

The remedy?

A change in posture.

Back for his third stint with the old blue and maize, James laid the cards on the table during his first meeting with the players in mid-June. A journeyman in the prep and collegiate coaching ranks, he observed a hunger and desire to win -- but saw some reservations, too.

"You have to change your attitude and approach how you look at this thing, and the vision that you have for this program," James said. "If you're willing to put forth the effort, then we can take this to the next level."

The players slowly started to come around.

Pics and short weight-room workout videos, which showed the team's enthusiasm and solid work ethic, appeared daily on the team's Twitter account throughout the summer. The coaching staff beamed with pride as the players encouraged each other and stayed after practice to put in extra work.

The commitment became contagious -- even with 6 a.m. practice calls before school started earlier this month.

"When I first walked in, I really didn't believe that this type of talent was available," James said. "I was like 'are you kidding me? I go home and smile. 'Is it real?' We're still behind, still a work in progress, but I see a load of potential that we have. We've got a chance. We can compete. I think we're going to be OK."

Goldsboro managed just 155 points in 2016 -- its lowest single-season total since 2004 when it scored 122 as an Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference member. The Cougars filed just 24 touchdowns, including nine on the ground.

Xzavior Bowden led the team with 598 yards and 5 TDs on 116 carries. The returning varsity performer drew high praise from his new coach.

"Bowden could be one of the top juniors in the state of North Carolina," James said. "He has really blossomed."

A smash-mouth coach who believes in controlling the trenches on every down, James intends to run the football -- relentlessly. Opposing defenses can expect to see variations of the I-formation, including the play-action pass.

Working with Bowden will be 170-pound sophomore Darius "Cash" Rodgers, JB Rhodes and junior Tilwan James. Directing the offense is junior right-hander Brody Morton, who has steadily improved on how to read the defense and go through his progressions to find an open receiver.

"(Morton) is my coach on the field, my leader," James said. "He understands the concept of the offense. Up front, which is going to be a tremendous blessing for him, we've just got to protect. I love the speed that we have, the size that we have from the receiver to the front line to the tailback.

"I really like how they've caught onto the system."

Senior Emmanuel Scott Persky -- at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds -- will anchor the O-line for the Cougars. Junior Sileek Warren (6-0, 215) has also caught James' attention during the preseason.

Goldsboro will play a 'base' 4-3 defense. The Cougars plan to attack on the line, utilize their speed in the middle of the field and get 11 hats to the ball on every play. Much to James' fancy, they've embraced the scheme installed by former GHS head coach and Goldsboro-Dillard Hall of Fame member Charles Lane, and Coach George Franklin.

Hobbton is the season-opening opponent on Aug. 18.

Just 42 days later, Goldsboro begins competition in the highly-physical East Central 2-A Conference which includes Wallace-Rose Hill (three-time reigning 1-AA state champ), James Kenan, East Duplin, Clinton, Midway and county rival Spring Creek.

James has a simple approach.

"We talk about (each game) from a fundamentals standpoint," he said. "We want to look sharp, not beat ourselves, be disciplined. We want to win with class, represent our school and community with class. We're going to play hard football, hit you in the mouth, but we're going to play with class."