Five of the six head football coaches that make up the Neuse Six 2A Conference met Thursday to vote on the preseason rankings for their football teams.
The coaches, who met at Dee’s Diner on Grantham Street, were Eastern Wayne head coach Leander Oates, Goldsboro head coach Ronnie McClary Jr., Princeton head coach Travis Gaster, North Johnston head coach Michael Barnett and Beddingfield head coach Ben Ellis.
Spring Creek head coach Daniel Robinson was not at the meeting but voted by telephone.
In the preseason poll, reigning Neuse Six Conference champion Princeton came in first with 25 points. Five of the six coaches ranked the Princeton Bulldogs first, with the exception of Gaster because coaches are not allowed to vote for their team.
Gaster said being number one in the preseason poll showed how much the other coaches respect the Princeton football program.
“Coming off winning the championship in this new conference, it’s a sign of respect for our program, and the hard work our kids put in and the job that our coaching staff does,” Gaster said.
Eastern Wayne was ranked second in the preseason poll with 21 points. The Warriors earned four second-place votes and one first-place vote.
Oates said that since Eastern Wayne finished second in the conference last season, he feels like second was the proper ranking in this season’s preseason poll.
“That’s definitely a fair ranking,” Oates said. “(Princeton) was the champs from last year, so being in the hunt for (the conference title) last year, and looking at our record, it is a well-respected ranking.”
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Last season, the Warriors finished the season with a 4-1 conference record, with their only loss coming to the 5-0 Bulldogs.
This season, the Warriors have their sights set on first place, which Oates said is possible if the Warriors can avoid turnovers and injuries throughout the season.
“We have to take it one game at a time and go in the game healthy each week,” Oates said. “My motto is always ‘play our ball.’ If we don’t do things that are out of character, I think everything else will take care of it itself.”
Goldsboro came in third with 15 points, a ranking McClary said was fair considering the Cougars’ 3-2 record in conference play last season.
“I’m pleased but not satisfied,” McClary said. “It shows that we have the respect of our colleagues, but it also shows we something to prove.”
In the bottom half of the poll, Beddingfield and North Johnston were tied for fourth place with 12 points each, while Spring Creek was picked last in the preseason poll with five points.
Spring Creek head coach Daniel Robinson said he hopes the last place ranking will fuel his players to show they are a better team than they were last season.
The Gators had a 0-5 record in conference play last season.
“I’m not surprised or shocked by the ranking. We are going to use that as some locker room fuel,” Robinson said. “We hope to finish closer to the middle of the pack than at the bottom this year.”