Monday, September 29, 2008

CBA stays No. 2 in 3-A poll

Here's a quick glance at teams in The Wilson Daily Times readership area that are ranked in their respective state polls.

Charles B. Aycock's unbeaten boys soccer team remains second in the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association 3-A poll. The Golden Falcons (12-0-0) trail Asheville T.C. Roberson. After losses to CBA and Fike last week, Hunt dropped out of the top 15.

In the public school poll, defending N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A state champion Greenfield rose one spot to 10th. The Knight have won seven straight.

In girls tennis, Fike holds onto the No. 3 spot in the N.C. High School Tennis Coaches Association 3-A rankings. Rocky Mount is fifth. In the 2-A poll, Greene Central, the defending N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-A champion, is third.

High school football rankings come out Tuesday so stay tuned.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday morning reflections

It's Saturday morning and the news comes from Associated Press that screen legend Paul Newman has lost his battle with cancer at age 83.

That 's definitely a bummer. I could watch "Cool Hand Luke" or "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" at any time.

Moving on to the topic of the morning, the Hunt Warriors are probably in mourning after Friday night's debacle, a 38-9 loss to Fike. Not even a reunion of Hunt's first varsity football team, the 1978 Warriors who went unbeaten in the regular season, could motivate the 2008 Warriors.

Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers are killing Hunt. This is not the team that blew out Bertie to open the season (although Bertie, as it now seems, probably isn't that good). But three weeks ago at Fike, Hunt narrowly lost 14-13 in overtime.

The Warriors have had some injuries but that still doesn't add up to one of, if not the worst start (1-5) in head coach Randy Raper's 18-year career. Hunt gets the week off before opening 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference play against a tough Kinston outfit. The Warriors can turn it around but they'd better do it quick.

The Golden Demons, on the other hand, are playing nearly perfect football each week which is what they have to do, head coach Richie Pridgen reminds.

Fike senior quarterback Michael Brown turns in a quiet near flawless performance each Friday and the Demons' ground game has proven to be explosive.

Fike will certainly get its sternest test of the season Friday when it visits Beddingfield, also 5-0. This should be the biggest clash between Wilson teams since the Warriors and Bruins closed the 2005 regular season.

Back to those '78 Warriors — I didn't recognize some of the guys from the photos taken at Bill's by the Daily Times' Michael Lindsay and at the game by our freelance photog Jimmy Pridgen. Too many years had gone by. But others were instantly recognizable.

Kudos to"brothers" John and Dwight Taylor for putting together this reunion of a team that certainly should go down in Wilson football annals as one of the best.

This fall is also the 25th anniversary of the 1983 Warriors — many were my senior classmates — who were Hunt's first playoff team, going all the way to the Eastern finals. A talented Fayetteville Byrd team (with three future NFL players) ended their season on a cold Friday after Thanksgiving in Warrior Stadium but what a year.

Maybe they'll have a reunion sometime this season, too.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mudcats, Reds join forces

It's official, the Carolina Mudcats are the new Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds of the National League.

The Southern League member announced Friday afternoon at a press conference. The Mudcats' six-year association with the Florida Marlins ended last week and were being courted by the Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

Carolina, which lost the Southern League championship series in five games to the Mississippi Braves, will put a stamp on their new affiliation with an exhibition game against the Reds on April 3, 2009, in Five County Stadium.

Personally, I'm a little disappointed it wasn't the Giants. As an 11-year resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, I developed an affinity for the G-men and their American League neighbors, the Oakland Athletics. It would have been neat seeing the next-generation Giants come through eastern North Carolina on their way to San Francisco.

The Reds are a good choice though. They are the oldest major league team, dating back to 1882. I'm not sure about their current state. The most recent interest I had in them was when Goldsboro native Jerry Narron was the Cincinnati manager but he was fired last year.

Check out Saturday's print and online editions of The Wilson Daily Times for reporter Ryan Bisesi's coverage of Friday's press conference.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hoo boy! Here we go, State and ECU fans

Apparently there is a communication breakdown between the athletic departments at N.C. State University and East Carolina University.

Wolfpack athletic director Lee Fowler said on 99.9 FM The Fan on Wednesday the in-state rivals were only going to meet three times over the next eight seasons. Fowler also opined the reasons behind it were that ECU athletic director Terry Holland and head football coach Skip Holtz wanted to be sure ECU could "win and do some things properly."

Holland responded via an ECU press release on Wednesday afternoon.

While I have no first hand knowledge of the circumstance of the comments made on a radio talk show, these are the absolute facts as I know them regarding future football games with NC State:

1. Skip Holtz and Terry Holland want to play the other public Football Bowl Subdivision institutions in our state (NC State and UNC) as often as possible. These are great rivalry games that are good for the economy of this state and for eastern North Carolina in particular.

2. If NC State and UNC called today and told us that they would each play us home and home every year, we would do whatever necessary to make that work, as we did in 2006 when we moved the Virginia Tech series back a year in order to play at NC State in 2006 and have NC State and UNC in Greenville in 2007. We believe those games are that important to the
future of this area economically and otherwise. We are therefore TOTALLY committed to playing games against those institutions whenever the opportunity arises for us to play them.

3. Last spring, NC State and ECU began discussions about moving games around to allow each to achieve their desired home and away "balance." ECU specifically asked about moving the 2009 game scheduled for Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to the 2010 season. We wanted the local rivalry game with NC State in 2010 when we expect to have completed our East End Zone project that could add between 5,000 and 7,000 seats to our stadium. Our only contracted non-conference home game for the 2010 season is Navy, and having NC State in that particular year would obviously make our season ticket package more attractive for the 2010 season.

4. There have been a number of suggested resolutions to achieve each institution's desired balance, including playing once every three years in the short term while leading to a longer term agreement to settle the issue of future games when the current coaches and athletics directors are not likely to be in their present positions .

5. However, the bottom line is that ECU and NC State have a signed contract to play in Greenville in 2009, 2012 and 2016 and in Raleigh in 2008, 2010, and 2013. Until there is a different schedule mutually agreeable to both teams, ECU is prepared to continue honoring that contract and expects NC State to do the same.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ouch! UNC's Yates out for 6 weeks

Bad news for North Carolina football fans. The Associated Press reported a short time ago that Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates has a broken ankle and will be out of action for six weeks.

Yates was hurt in the third quarter of UNC's 20-17 loss to Virginia Tech in Kenan Stadium on Saturday. Yates played for another play then came off the field. He had thrown for 181 yards and a touchdown before being replaced by redshirt freshman Mike Paulus, who was 3 for 8 for 23 yards with a pair of costly interceptions.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tragedy in Greenville — UPDATE

Charles Alston of nc.ihigh.com is reporting that Greenville J.H. Rose High football player Jaquan Waller died after the Rampants' game against Wilmington Hoggard on Friday night in Greenville.

Alston updated some of the earlier information which had the young man passing shortly after midnight. In fact, Waller was revived at Pitt Memorial Hospital then placed on life support. Due to his family's wishes, he was removed from that early Saturday afternoon and died a short time later.

What terrible tragedy this is. You never know when something like this is going to happen. Football is a violent sport but nobody who puts on the pads expects to die playing it.

Certainly our thoughts are with Jaquan's family, friends and teammates.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Report: Mudcats cut loose by Marlins

The Florida Times-Union reported early Thursday on its Web site www.jacksonville.com the Florida Marlins will cut ties with its Double-A franchise, the Carolina Mudcats, and have signed a two-year deal with the Jacksonville Suns.

The Suns, a Southern League affiliate with the Mudcats, had been the Los Angeles Dodgers' Double-A franchise for the past eight seasons. The Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Dodgers were also reportedly interested in the Suns.

That means, for the time being, the Mudcats have no major league affiliation. The team, which began play in 1991, has worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies prior to becoming a Marlins farm team in 2002.

Check Friday's edition of The Wilson Daily Times for Mudcats columnist Will Privette's take on Marlins' decision to drop the Mudcats.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pasteurized: The Fantastic 50 not-so-fantastic for area teams

Mathematician and high school football aficionado Drew Pasteur has released his initial 2008 Fantastic 50 N.C. high school football rankings.

The news is not that great for area teams. Fike is ranked the highest, coming in at 74th in the state out of 366 teams in all four N.C. High School Athletic Association classification as well as teams in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association. The Golden Demons (2-0) are listed No. 24 among 98 NCHSAA 3-A teams, one spot ahead of archrival Hunt (1-2). The overall No. 87 Warriors lost a 14-13 overtime decision to Fike last Thursday. Beddingfield (2-1) is ranked No. 102 overall and No. 35 in the 3-A ranks.

Pasteur ranks all the teams overall and by classification as well as each's strength of schedule using a mathematical formula he developed. In his 3-A poll, he lists Greensboro Dudley No. 1 and Rocky Mount second. Other area teams are SouthWest Edgecombe (28th, 87th), Southern Nash (64th, 198th) and Charles B. Aycock (85th, 271st).

Greene Central is 56th of 91 NCHSAA 2-A teams and 263rd overall while North Johnston comes in No. 34 of 77 NCHSAA 1-A schools and 259th overall.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Gryphons take a loss the hard way

Apparently Rocky Mount's dream of a perfect football season is already by the wayside.

The Gryphons had started 2-0 with impressive wins against East Forsyth and Hunt but not so fast. The word came out Friday from Sandra Drum, Executive Director of Communications for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools that Rocky Mount self-reported an ineligible player who was on the roster for the opening game against East Forsyth.

A similar situation happened with Beddingfield last season and the Bruins had to forfeit an opening-night victory against Northern Nash. The Gryphons, ranked No. 1 in the state 3-A poll, are now 1-1. Unfortunately for Hunt, the situation was corrected by the time the Gryphons steamrolled the Warriors in week 2.

Caught on tape: Police repelling Pirates fans

Here's an interesting clip from YouTube taken by a fan in the stands after East Carolina upset then No. 8-ranked West Virginia 24-3 on Saturday.

Police turn back exuberant Pirates fans

There is allegedly a shot of one officer punching a fan although, to be honest, it's hard to make out what is going on. The university is looking into these allegations.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I've been away. What did I miss?

I've been away. On vacation. It was OK. Camping with an 18-month-old isn't quite the definition of "relaxing" and I managed to catch a cold for the second straight year on vacation. My right ear is still working about half capacity after cinching up on the rapid descent from Asheville on I-40 on Friday afternoon.

Nothing like leaving the peace and quiet of the Blue Ridge Mountains to roll straight into a tropical storm. But at least we were spared nothing more than picking up a few limbs (except for the folks on Kenan Street who dodged a bullet in the form of a big ol' oak tree that just missed their house). Had Hanna been a Category IV hurricane, I would not be typing this to you right now, at least not from my home. That storm, or what was left of it, went right over Wilson. Could've been really, really bad, folks. Let's hope Ike loses some of his bluster before he hits Florida.

So what did I miss? A big week for Hunt soccer as the Warriors defeated Rocky Mount and former coach Drew Nick then stopped Fike. A big week for the Fike football team which beat Hunt for the first time since 2004 although it took overtime, a dubious celebration penalty and a missed 25-yard extra point kick to do it. Still, a nice win for the Golden Demons who are 2-0 for the first time since 2004. I picked Hunt, mainly because of its five-game winning streak against the Demons.

Not a good week for me in picking games. I could blame it on my hurried choices very early Saturday morning a week ago before rushing home to pack for Asheville. But I would have taken the same teams if I pondered it long and hard. Well, maybe not North Johnston, which finally lost by more than a point as Bennett Jones' West Johnston team pounded the Panthers in Kenly.

Beddingfield should not be losing to Nash Central, which has won two straight after getting blitzed by 2-A Tarboro 50-7 on opening night. The Bruins' offense wasn't up to the task on Friday.

I took East Carolina over Virginia Tech but didn't think the Pirates had back-to-back upsets in 'em. Color me wrong, not purple.

Well, the long-awaited season premiere of "Entourage" is on. I'll be back...