Monday, December 7, 2009

Despite what Davis says, Heels can't be excited

Sometimes you just have to wonder if what you read coming from someone's lips is the truth. Now, I'm not about to suggest North Carolina head football coach Butch Davis is anything less than an honest, upstanding fellow but a quote from Davis caught my eye in The Associated Press story Sunday on his team accepting a bid to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.

Davis was quoted in the AP story: “Our players are excited to continue their season and play so close to home. We had tremendous fan support at the game in 2008 and we will need that again this year against an outstanding Pittsburgh team.”

The Tar Heels will play in the Meineke Bowl for the second straight year as they make their third consecutive trip to the game in Charlotte, called the Continental Tire Bowl in 2004 when UNC made its first appearance. The Heels have lost both previous meetings and it was my understanding, after speaking with the father of a player from The Wilson Times readership area, the UNC players did not want to return to Charlotte. After all, it's hardly a reward to play in a bowl less than 100 miles away in the same state in cold weather.

North Carolina might have gone to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., to play Kentucky but when the Gator Bowl decided to give Florida State and its retiring head coach Bobby Bowden the spot it would typically hand to the ACC runner-up, in this year's case, Clemson. That pushed Clemson to the Music City Bowl and UNC was facing either the Emerald Bowl or the Meineke Bowl. The Emerald Bowl in San Francisco chose Boston College to play Southern California.

Now I know the thinking in Chapel Hill is that there will be lots of fans in Charlotte and travel expenses are much lower than going to San Francisco. But I wonder if the UNC players think playing in Charlotte against Pittsburgh (another team that lost to N.C. State) is better than spending a few days in one of the world's most scenic cities and facing one of college football's most storied programs.

But hey, the Heels can only blame themselves as losses to Virginia and State put them in this situation, along with Bowden's retirement. I just wonder if Davis' statement was a typical public relations put-a-good-spin-on-it utterance or if the Carolina players really are happy going back to Charlotte. Or maybe they've just fooled him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Firebirds not favored — again

Southern Nash isn't expected to win at South Johnston on Friday night by Drew Pasteur and his fantastic computer but that's OK because he hasn't projected the Firebirds as a winner since the first round.

Southern Nash is a two-point underdog in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-AA East Regional championship. Pasteur is coming off his worst week of the season when he got just 65.6 percent (21-11) of his picks correct with just 10 of those coming within a touchdown of his projected margin of victory.

Before the playoffs began, Southern Nash came in at 30-to-1 odds to win the East Regional while South Johnston was listed 11 to 1. Hunt and Gray's Creek, both of whom were beaten by the Firebirds, were 5 to 1.

But Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster and his players are probably more than OK being the underdog yet again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Southern Nash, Anson County defy the odds

If Southern Nash beats South Johnston in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-AA East Regional football championship, the No. 11-seeded Firebirds would become just the fourth team seeded 10th or higher to reach a regional final in the eight seasons the NCHSAA has been seeding playoff brackets.

Or the Firebirds could be the fifth team to do it.

Anson County, which visits Belmont South Point for the 3-AA West crown Friday, is a No. 12 seed. This is the first time in NCHSAA playoff seeding history that two seeds higher than 10 could meet for the state championship.

There have been 13 teams seeded 10th or higher to make it to a regional final. Thanks to the diligent work of NCHSAA Associate Executive Director Rick Strunk, I am able to tell you those lucky 13 are:

• 2001, 1-AA No. 10 Gates County (lost to No. 1 Wallace-Rose Hill 42-24 )
• 2003, 3-A No. 11 Northeast Guilford (beat No. West Craven 35-27)
• 2003, 3-AA No. 10 High Point Central (lost to No. 4 Shelby Crest 14-6)
• 2005, 4-AA No. 12 Charlotte Myers Park (lost to No. 2 Charlotte Independence 48-14)
• 2006, 1-AA No. 10 Mount Airy (lost to No. 1 Thomasville 35-7)
• 2006, 2-A No. 10 Clinton (lost to No. 1 Jacksonville Northside 25-0)
• 2006, 3-AA No. 14 Northwest Cabarrus (lost to No. 1 Charlotte Catholic)
• 2006, 4-AA No. 11 Durham Riverside (beat No. 1 Garner 15-13)
• 2007, 2-A No. 10 East Lincoln (lost to No. 5 Lincolnton 21-13)
• 2007, 4-AA No. 10 Charlotte Independence (beat No. 1 West Charlotte)
• 2008, 4-A No. 11 South Mecklenburg (lost to No. 8 Fayetteville Seventy-First 27-6)
• 2009, 3-AA No. 11 Southern Nash (plays No. 1 South Johnston)
• 2009, 3-AA No. 12 Anson County (plays No. 7 Belmont South Point)

So it was 3-A Northeast Guilford in 2003, 4-AA Riverside in 2006 and 4-AA Independence in 2007 to defy the odds and get to a state championship game but, alas, none of them brought home a trophy.

The Firebirds (11-3) have to face No. 1 South Johnston (13-1) which is a natural progession since they've defeated No. 6 Triton (8-4), No. 3 Hunt (8-4) and No. 2 Hope Mills Gray's Creek (12-2). Anson County (10-4) knocked off No. 5 Waxhaw Marvin Ridge (9-2), No. 13 Shelby Crest (7-5) and No. 1 Northern Guilford (12-2) to get to No. 7 South Point (12-2).

It's entirely possible the 3-AA bracket is where NCHSAA underdog history is made this fall and it's all up to Southern Nash and Anson County to make it.

Bowden's retirement means ACC bowl shakeup

Bobby Bowden's announcement that he is retiring as Florida State University's football coach after 34 seasons looks to have repercussions throughout the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Bowden said Tuesday he will step down after the Seminoles' bowl game and that's where it gets sticky. Stewart Verney of The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area reported Wednesday the Gator Bowl is courting FSU but not with the blessing of the ACC.

The Gator Bowl wants FSU because it will be the legendary Bowden's last game but that means the Gator won't take the loser of the ACC title game Saturday between Georgia Tech and Clemson, which it is not contractually obligated to do, Verney reports.

The ACC wants FSU in the Champs Sports Bowl and if that doesn't happen, the ensuing shakeup might move North Carolina out of the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., where the Tar Heels are reported to be going. That means the Tar Heels could either go back to the Meineke Bowl in Charlotte or the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco. My guess is the UNC players would prefer to munch on sourdough bread as they take in the gorgeous views of San Francisco Bay from a cable car instead of playing for the second time in three years in Charlotte, which isn't much different from a regular-season game.

The players don't make the final decision on what bowl bid a team accepts. There's way too much money at stake for that to happen. Carolina will play in a bowl game, if invited, and it could mean the Meineke. But if it is, and I'm not a betting man, I'd wager on the Tar Heels' opponent that day.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Third round bedevils Cougars again

SouthWest Edgecombe is going to win a state football championship one year but it won't be this year. The Cougars found the third round to be the stumbling block for the third time in four years as they lost to Reidsville 22-20 on Friday night.

There's not much shame in this outcome since the Rams are the two-time defending N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-AA state champions, have now won 46 straight games and are the overwhelming favorite to win their 18th state title now that they've gotten past their biggest obstacle — the Cougars.

Friday's game was everything you'd expect from a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. The Rams came in with a reputation for offensive explosiveness, leading the state with 669 points scored. The Cougars had gotten to the third round with a withering ball-control offense. Both teams did what they did, when they weren't being stopped by defenses equal to the task.

But the part that will haunt Cougars fans and head coach Raymond Cobb is the way it ended. After SouthWest answered the Rams' third touchdown with one of their own, they failed to tack on the two-point conversion. After the onside kick attempt was recovered by the Rams, the Cougars defense rose to the challenge and forced a punt.

SouthWest got the ball with just under two minutes to play and no timeouts. The Cougars quickly moved the ball inside the Rams' 30-yard line and, on first down, quarterback Chris Ellerbe spiked it. After a second-down pass went awry, Ellerbe took a shot at Javelle Jenkins in the end zone but the pass was long.

Fourth-and-10 at the 27 with 12 seconds left. The Cougars, admittedly not a passing team but effective through the air this drive, had one more option. Cobb sent Ellerbe on to try a 37-yard field goal which was dicey since Ellerbe hadn't really kicked any field goals all year and the field was a mushy mess.

But it all became moot when the snap was low and holder Pierce Sturgill was tackled by Reidsville's Steve Williams before he could pitch to Ellerbe.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who will second-guess that decision to go for a field goal in that situation but a coach has to do what he thinks is right in a situation. Cobb's record as one of the best coaches around speaks for itself so whatever criticism comes his way has to be taken in stride.

The Cougars knew they'd have to beat Reidsville to win the state championship, whether it was the third round, the first round or the last round. It didn't happen but it shouldn't sully what has been yet another great season in Pinetops.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pasteur likes the Cougars this week but I'm not so sure

Even though his accuracy rate dipped a bit last week, Drew Pasteur of The Fantastic 50 predicts good things for at least one area team in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs.

Pasteur projects SouthWest Edgecombe as a two-point winner over two-time defending state champion Reidsville in Friday's 2-AA East semifinals mega-clash in Pinetops but he thinks Southern Nash falls by seven at Hope Mills Gray's Creek in the 3-AA East semis.

Pasteur thinks the 2-AA East championship will be an all-Eastern Plains Conference affair with Kinston beating Pittsboro Northwood by five. He also has Tarboro advancing to the 2-A East final for the second straight year with a predicted 18-point win over Whiteville but Edgecombe County's third team, North Edgecombe, is a 10-point underdog at Jones Senior.

Pasteur says he went 51-15 (77.3 percent) picking winners last week, a drop from an all-time high of 89.4 percent (118-14) in the first round of the playoffs the previous week.

In the four high school games on this week's Football Forecast, I've only got one difference with Pasteur. I like Kinston upsetting Pittsboro Northwood in the 2-AA bracket, although it would be an upset only from the perspective of seeding, and I think Fayetteville Douglas Byrd will end South Johnston's season.

I also think Southern Nash won't get past Gray's Creek, although like last week, I thought long and hard about taking the Firebirds who are good enough to win again. I just have a hard time taking a visiting team with a penchant for fumbling.

Where Pasteur's computer and I differ are in the game many feel is the de facto 2-AA state title game. I've thought all season that SouthWest Edgecombe has had a state championship-caliber team but we know Reidsville is just that, having won the last two 2-AA crowns as well as 45 straight games. The Cougars can win this one but they'll need to play errorless football, obviously, and just as importantly get off to a good start. However, Reidsville is explosive offensively and even if SWE is winning in the final minute, if the Rams have the ball, they can pull it out. So I have to go with Reidsville by less than a touchdown.

My picks are more in line with The Massey Ratings, which project Reidsville as a 34-24 winner, Southern Nash a 26-17 loser, Byrd a 27-19 winner and Kinston over Northwood by a 23-16 final.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Prince gets A for Extra Effort

Congratulations to Mary-Katherine Price, the recipient of this week's Extra Effort Award from WRAL-TV.

As one of the best high school girls tennis players in the state and the No. 1 student in her senior class at Fike, Mary-Katherine is truly the embodiment of the term "student-athlete."

Check out the video at WRAL.com, it's even got Lee Matthews in it!

West Rowan's Parks sets new state rushing record

Who knew that the North Carolina high school career rushing record is 10,253 yards?

Well, there's no need to remember that figure for long because it's sure to keep climbing as newly minted record-holder K.P. Parks of West Rowan will have at least one more chance to further it Friday night. Parks, who has committed to the University of Virginia, eclipsed the mark set by former Jamestown Ragsdale and current N.C. State player Toney Baker. Parks did it with 244 yards and three touchdowns in West Rowan's 38-0 bombardment of R-S Central in the second round of the state 3-A playoffs.

It was the 27th straight win for the defending champion Falcons, who have been ranked No. 1 all season.

Gardner-Webb's McNair should start Monday vs. Tar Heels

Greenfield School product Brian McNair is expected to be in the starting lineup Monday night for the Gardner-Webb men's basketball team when the Bulldogs visit the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels.

McNair, a three-time Wilson Times All-Area selection, should get the start, Greenfield head coach Rob Salter said Sunday night. McNair, who wears No. 24, has started one of the Bulldogs (3-0) three games and is averaging 6.0 point, 5.0 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 20.3 minutes of action per game.

The game will be televised by Fox Sports South and will tip off at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

SouthWest vs. Reidsville is a reality

For the second time this season the eyes of the state 2-A football world will be on Pinetops as SouthWest Edgecombe secured the homefield for Friday's showdown with Reidsville with Saturday night's 28-0 defeat of Jacksonville Northside.

This will be the third time in four years the Cougars have reached the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, having made it in the 3-A playoffs in 2006 and last year. Now in the 2-AA bracket, SouthWest faces the opponent it knew it would have to go through to win a state title ever since the season began.

Reidsville comes in with two straight state 2-AA titles and 45 straight wins, the third-longest streak in state history. The Rams score in bunches and are loaded with athletes and, as importantly, the confidence that comes with the success associated with winning four state titles since 1972.

The Cougars, on the other hand, haven't been as dominant as during midseason but played extremely well in beating a tough Northside team.

SouthWest's strength as been its decimating ground attack, often aimed at the heart of the opposing defense. The Cougars have averaged 8 yards per carry in their wishbone offense and junior quarterback Chris Ellerbe is a capable passer when they've needed him to be.

The Cougars defense has bent often but rarely broken and may be a bit underrated.

The biggest advantage SouthWest has going into Friday's game, besides the homefield, is its tough schedule. The Cougars have beaten Tarboro and Kinston, both Eastern Plains Conference rivals still alive in the third round. They also knocked off 3-A foes Hunt and Rocky Mount with ease during the season. Reidsville's schedule was far from a cakewalk and the Rams only had one game with less than 40 points scored. But only four of their regular-season foes had winning records whereas eight of the Cougars' opponents had winning marks.

In any event, Friday's game is sure to be a big-time football game and the crowd might be bigger than the estimated 5,000 spectators who were on hand to see the Cougars beat Tarboro in October.

If you're going, get there early, very early.

Congratulations to new boys soccer state champions

The N.C. High School Athletic Association has crowned four new boys soccer champions with 1-A Hendersonville, 2-A Shelby and 3-A Waxhaw Marvin Ridge winning titles Saturday to join Greensboro Page, which captured the 4-A title Friday.

Marvin Ridge downed 3-A East champion Chapel Hill 2-1 in sudden-death overtime Saturday. The Tigers reached the final by giving No. 1 seed Jacksonville its first loss in 29 matches with a 2-1 overtime win Friday in a match that began Wednesday. The Tigers and Cardinals battled to a 1-1 tie in a downpour Wednesday night but the game officials decided the field was unplayable for overtime. So the teams reconvened Friday night at nearby Dixon High to play the decisive OT period.

Firebirds find footing while Warriors wonder what happened

As I stepped carefully onto the field in Warrior Stadium Friday night following Hunt's state 3-AA playoff game against Southern Nash my mind wandered ever so briefly back to early August.

I milled outside the clubhouse waiting for practice to begin so I could shoot some photographs and I couldn't help but notice the stadium field was a pristine green, shimmering in the summer heat as it awaited its 32nd season. Fast forward to around 10 o'clock Friday night and the once green and robust turf was in shambles, much like Hunt's season.

The Warriors never could seem to find the traction on their own field that the Firebirds did as they slogged out a 20-10 victory to end Hunt's season in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs. Southern Nash churned out 285 tough yards in the mud while the Warriors never got their offense in gear.

Maybe it was the fact Hunt kept going to the passing game which produced next to nothing. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Page, usually sure-handed and strong-armed, seemed bewildered by the marshmallow-like surface, caused by days of rain as he struggled to plant his feet for his deliveries. Meanwhile Hunt receivers seemed to be running through molasses as they just couldn't get to Page's throws. Only one of the 12 Hunt passing attempts was caught by a Warrior, Travoris Lofton, and for just 3 yards. The last pass Page threw was snagged by a Firebird, Luke Mercer, and it all but finished off the Warriors.

A fumble also killed a promising fourth-quarter drive for the Warriors right after Southern Nash had taken a 14-10 lead. But rather than try to dissect what Hunt did wrong, let's look at what the Firebirds did right. Even though they fell short of their quota of 2.5 fumbles, both turnovers they had hurt the Firebirds. The first ended the opening drive in Hunt territory and the Warriors turned it into a quick six points, courtesy of Jazzy Kirby's 62-yard run after taking an option pitch from fill-in quarterbackTyrell Vinson.

The other Southern Nash turnover came on a squib kickoff by Harry Lamm following Kirby's TD that Kyle Pittman recovered near midfield. Hunt got a field goal from Lamm out of that.

But that was it. Even Southern Nash's 66 yards on 10 penalties, including two drives that were absolutely killed by yellow flags, didn't keep the Firebirds from winning. I was impressed by them early in the season after back-to-back wins against Beddingfield and Bunn and I was not surprised that they beat Hunt Friday night.

They believe in themselves and they believe in head coach Brian Foster and his staff and good things have happened for them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Madness in my method

In a much less scientific manner than Drew Pasteur and his computer (see below), I came up with my picks for this week's Football Forecast.

Keep in mind that some of my picks are made with regard to how I think the other forecasters on the panel are going to pick. Because I'm in next-to-last place with only two more weeks assured (the Forecast ends when the last area high school team exits the playoffs), I had to mix it up a bit.

So I went against the board, or most of them, in taking C.B. Aycock at Hope Mills Gray's Creek. But I also did it because I have a hunch the Golden Falcons are going to play a little longer.

I did go with the flow on picking Hunt over Southern Nash but, as I did during the regular season, I nearly convinced myself to take the Firebirds. After all, Southern Nash has had just as good a season as Hunt, except for the Warriors' 28-20 win at home last month. But I just can't get over the Firebirds' 2.5 turnovers per game, especially when the field in Warrior Stadium is probably going to be wet Friday night.

I did take Rocky Mount over South Johnston for two reasons: No. 1, the Trojans didn't impress me all that much when I saw Fike nearly beat them in Wilson six weeks ago and, No. 2, the Gryphons have had a bad season — by their recent standards — but as Fike head coach Kim Brown said, 'They ain't a bad team."

I took Kinston over East Duplin because I'm just a sucker for those Eastern Plains Conference teams. The Vikings are a tough bunch and maybe East Duplin didn't face that kind of competition during the season and is the No. 1 seed only because the folks at the NCHSAA drew it out of a hat.

I like SouthWest Edgecombe to take care of business this week against a tough Jacksonville Northside team but the Cougars better click it up a few notches if they survive and get Reidsville in Pinetops the day after Thanksgiving. Those Rams are tough, tough, tough.

Don't ask me why I picked the way I did on the college games. I've been terrible all season but I'm rolling the dice again on Arizona over Oregon and Cal over Stanford. I'll admit that in my 11 years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I took sides and never once rooted for the Cardinal. Go Bears!

Pasteur releases second-round predictions

Drew Pasteur released his updated Fantastic 50 along with second-round picks for the N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs.

To get straight to the point, he has 3-AA East No. 3 seed Hunt beating No. 11 Southern Nash by seven points to set up a third-round meeting with No. 2 Hope Mills Gray's Creek, which Pasteur projects as a five-point victor over C.B. Aycock.

Pasteur also has No. 1 South Johnston edging No. 9 Rocky Mount by a point and No. 12 Fayetteville Byrd toppling No. 5 West Brunswick by four.

In the 2-AA East, No. 2 SouthWest Edgecombe is a 20-point favorite over No. 7 Jacksonville Northside while No. 3 Reidsville is laying 28 points on Bunn. He also has No. 1 East Duplin slipping past Kinston by a point.

Pasteur touts his first-round performance as his best week ever, coming in at 118-14 (89.4 percent) and on the season, he's at 81.4 percent. Not too shabby.

But like with any tournament predictions, Pasteur had some early bracket busters. The most notable was his 3-AA runner-up Fayetteville Westover going down to Byrd in the first round. Another 3-AA quarterfinalist, Northeast Guilford, also went by the wayside to Shelby Crest in the first round.

The 3-AA had four wrong picks in the first round, by far the worst showing for him in any bracket. However, in each of the other seven classifications all of Pasteur's final eight are alive.

He does have SWE and Tarboro winning the 2-AA and 2-A state crowns, respectively, and Hunt exiting to Gray's Creek in the third round.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Richardson, Jeffers earn McDonald's All-America team nominations

Greenfield School seniors Brian Richardson and Jeremy Jeffers were named as nominees to the prestigious McDonald's All-America high school boys basketball team, Knights head coach Rob Salter reported Tuesday morning.

Richardson, who has signed with the University of South Carolina, and Drake University signee Jeffers become the third and fourth players in Greenfield hoops history to achievement a McD's nomination. Last year, Brian McNair, now a freshman at Gardner-Webb University, was selected while Anthony Atkinson was the first. Atkinson, you may recall, led Barton College to the NCAA Division II championship in 2007 and is now a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Neither McNair nor Atkinson made the final cut of the McD's roster but just to be nominated is a big deal so congratulations are in order for Richardson and Jeffers!

Monday, November 16, 2009

High school playoffs starting to take shape

Looking ahead to Friday's second-round games in the N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs, Southern Nash visits Hunt for the second time in a month.

The Warriors took advantage of the Firebirds' mistakes to pull out a 28-20 victory on homecoming. But that was with junior Caleb Bass and his 158 rushing yards. I expect Friday's rematch to be real war and it might come down to the final minutes.

The winner of this game takes on the survivor of the Charles B. Aycock-Hope Mills Gray's Creek game. Gray's Creek holds the seeding advantage while CBA would travel to Hunt and host Southern Nash.

In the top half of the bracket, Rocky Mount visits 3-AA East top-seed South Johnston and Fayetteville Byrd travels to West Brunswick.

SouthWest Edgecombe, which was shaky in its 2-AA opener against West Stanley on Saturday night, hosts a solid Jacksonville Northside team. The Cougars might have gotten caught looking ahead in Saturday's 16-6 win against a decided underdog in West Stanly and it'll be tough for SWE to not do the same this week with a potential date with two-time defending state champion Reidsville looming. Meanwhile, 2-AA East No. 1 seed East Duplin hosts Kinston Friday with the winner getting the Pittsboro Northwood-South Granville victor in the East semifinals.

Lane guides Abbey to conference titles in return to coaching

Congratulations are in order for Wilson native Robert Lane who guided the Belmont Abbey College women's soccer team to the Conference Carolinas regular-season and tournament championships in his first season as head coach.

For those who don't know Lane, he was an all-state player at Hunt High in the late 1990s, earning a selection to the East-West All-Star Game. He played two years at Barton College then moved onto the NCAA Division I ranks at East Carolina University.

Lane returned to Barton as an assistant under then head coach Gary Hall in 2005 before taking a job at Montreat College in January, 2006. But before he had coached a game there, Lane moved onto Coker College Hartsville, S.C., where he coached the men's team for three seasons. His last season at Coker in 2008, produced the best record by the Cobras in a decade at 7-12-2.

Lane was married to the former Neeley Rentz of Hartsville in March, 2008, and the newlyweds planned to relocate to Charlotte where he would work in private business. But the chance to coach again came last August when Lane took the job at the Abbey, where he could work without having to leave the the Charlotte area.

The Crusaders finished the season 14-6 after a 5-0 loss to Armstrong Atlantic (Ga.) in the first round of the NCAA Div. II playoffs.

Hunt falls at Jacksonville 5-0

I have some not-so-good news from Jacksonville where the Hunt High boys soccer team was defeated 5-0 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A East semifinals.

The Warriors, ranked No. 5 in the state, finished 22-2-1 while the Cardinals, top-ranked and unbeaten through 28 matches, steams into the East final against the winner of the Chapel Hill-Cardinal Gibbons semifinal. Still no score from that one.

UPDATE at 9 p.m.: Looks like Jacksonville will get Chapel Hill in the East final as the Tiger eliminated Cardinal Gibbons 4-3.

In Erwin, Southern Nash trails Triton 7-6 at the start of the third quarter in their NCHSAA 3-AA football playoff opener. Will have updates later.

UPDATE at 9 p.m.: Southern Nash leads Triton 20-7 with about 3:30 to play in the game.

Still a good deal

The announcement today that most online content provided by The Wilson Times at its Web site, wilsontimes.com, would be available through subscription only is sure to be met with discontent.

Naturally, people used to getting something for free aren't happy when all of a sudden they have to pay for it. But therein lies the problem. Newspapers began giving away content online several years ago under the notion that, in time, increased Web readership would drive up online advertising revenue and subsidize digital content the same way it does in print.

But folks, it ain't working. Internet advertising brings in a fraction that print does and the online readership, which has grown, undermines print advertising because people are reading the news on the Web site and not in print. In short, newspapers are basically giving away their core product and I don't know of many businesses that can do that and sustain themselves.

The next option is no newspaper, in print or online. No local news, no obituaries, no wedding announcements, no high school football reports, no district court results, no comics, no classified ads, no nothing. I believe that newspapers are not going to fade away because I think people still want the news in their community and you won't find news about Wilson anywhere but The Wilson Times. And I might be biased, but $10 a month for a paper in your driveway and full Web access is a pretty good deal.

Hopefully, this decision, like many painful ones in recent months, will help ensure the survival of this newspaper so Wilsonians and those in the surrounding communities won't lose their source for local news.

Because this space, along with other blogs at wilsontimes.com and other online features will continue to be free, I want to step up my game, so to speak, and provide more content. Look for daily entries that might not always be just about local sports. Also look for score updates, which I will provide as best I can.

Hopefully, readers of this blog will become more involved with comments and discussions on the local sports scene because here, you still don't have to pay to play!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hunt, SWE, CBA postpone playoff openers

Hunt has postponed its state 3-AA football playoff opener against Burlington Williams until 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Warriors assistant coach and athletic director Stevie Hinnant said Thursday.

Hinnant said if there is more rain Thursday night or Friday, the game could be pushed back until Monday. Hunt now has to deal with the absence of its place-kicker Harry Lamm and punter Will Jacobs, both of whom will be in Jacksonville for Hunt's boys soccer fourth-round playoff match on Saturday night.

SouthWest Edgecombe also moved its 2-AA playoff opener against West Stanly from Friday to Saturday at 7 p.m.

UPDATED at 9:25 p.m.: Charles B. Aycock's 3-AA opener at Hillsborough Orange will now be played at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Beddingfield's 2-AA game at Reidsville along with Southern Nash at Erwin Triton in a 3-AA matchup are still on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Check Wilsontimes.com for more information later Thursday or in Friday's print edition of The Wilson Times.

Pasteur says double titles for Edgecombe County

Drew Pasteur of Fantastic 50 fame has put up his weekly rankings along with some extra goodies for the first week of the N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs.

In his championship odds, Pasteur lists SouthWest Edgecombe (which is the No. 8 team in the Fantastic 50) as an 8 to 5 favorite to win the 2-AA state title.Two-time defending champion Reidsville comes in at 7 to 2 while the Rams' first-round opponent, Beddingfield, is an 8,000 to 1 longshot. SouthWest's first-round foe, West Stanley, comes in at 500,000 to 1.

Hunt, the No. 3 seed in the 3-AA East bracket, is a 17 to 1 shot to win the state crown, the fifth-best odds. The Warriors are listed as 5 to 1 to win the East. Southern Nash is 130 to 1 to win the state 3-AA title and 30 to 1 to win the East. Charles B. Aycock is 60 to 1 to win the state 3-AA championship and 13 to 1 to win the East.

Tarboro is an 8 to 5 favorite to win the 2-A state championship a year after falling in the 2-A final. If Pasteur is correct, Edgecombe County would be home to two state champions.

Pasteur's computer played the entire playoffs and here are the bracket predictions.

He has Hunt beating Burlington Williams by 21 in the first round as well as Aycock downing Hillsborough Orange by 13 and Southern Nash winning by one at Triton. Hunt then will beat Southern Nash by eight in the second round (interesting because the Warriors beat the Firebirds 28-20 three weeks ago) and Aycock losing by five to Gray's Creek. Hunt is forecast to lose by a point to Gray's Creek in the East semifinals.

In the 2-AA bracket, SWE will steamroll West Stanly by 39 in the first round and Reidsville will knock off Beddingfield by 28. He's got SWE beating Jacksonville Northside by 24 in the next round to set up a showdown with Reidsville, a 28-point victor over Bunn. Then the Cougars will end Reidsville's 44-game winning streak by five points in the third round before beating Eastern Plains Conference rival Kinston by 16 in the East final. SouthWest will down Newton-Conover by 11 for its first state championship.

In the other classifications, Pasteur picks Matthews Butler over Fayetteville Jack Britt by 18 in the 4-AA final; Jamestown Ragsdale by 10 over Harnett Central in the 4-A title game; Northern Guilford by eight over Fayetteville Westover in the 3-AA championship; West Rowan by a point over Hertford County to win the 3-A crown; Tarboro beating Winston-Salem Carver by 10 in the 2-A finale; Monroe by five against Southwest Onslow in the 1-AA championship and Mount Airy to repeat as 1-A king by 13 over Wallace-Rose Hill.

Keeping up with Pasteur's predictions (he's gotten 81 percent correct on the season) will make the playoffs all the more fun for me.

There's some long drives for some teams Friday night

Our friend in New Bern, Alan Wooten, who must know more about Farmville Central football than anyone alive or dead, brings us this tidbit about 2-A Eastern Plains Conference teams in the football playoffs.

Alan points out that of the six playoff games involving EPC teams, will involve approximately 1,500 miles of round-trip travel. The distances are Alan's but since he's such a great stat man I'm sure they are correct. The longest drive will belong to West Stanly which must travel 191 miles to Pinetops to play SouthWest Edgecombe for a 382-mile round trip..

The other distances, one-way, are Kinston at High Point Andrews (171 miles), Farmville Central at Whiteville (150 miles), Tarboro at Croatan (111 miles) and Beddingfield at Reidsville (127 miles).

The Farmville Central-Whiteville winner will get the winner of the Burlington Cummings-First Flight matchup. Cummings will travel 258 miles (512 round trip) to Kill Devil Hills to play the Nighthawks.

But those distances are piddly compared to those some of the teams in the 1-A bracket will have to travel Friday. Alleghany will drive 225 miles to play at Hobbton. North Duplin faces a 369-mile trip to Cherokee but the longest drive of all goes to Hayesville, which has to go 390 miles to get to its first-round opponent Princeton.

Talk about a looooooong ride home if you don't win.

DeRatt makes mark for 4-A champion Rampants

Greenville Rose completed an undefeated season by winning the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A volleyball championship last weekend. The Rampants (25-0) defeated Charlotte Ardrey Kell in four games for their second straight state title.

Junior Jamie DeRatt, who transferred from Beddingfield at the start of the year, had 10 kills, 10 blocks and two digs in the final for Rose. She wasn't named Most Valuable Player as that went to teammate Emily Neideffer, who stated in Kent Wheeless' North Carolina iHigh.com article, she thought the award would have gone to DeRatt.

DeRatt certainly made an impact at Rose on the volleyball court. Now I wonder how the Rampants girls soccer team will be in the spring with DeRatt.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Worst display of sportsmanship ever

If you're someone who gets upset when sportsmanship isn't on display all the time, don't click on this link.

This is a YouTube clip of an ESPN Sportscenter piece of Thursday's Mountain West Conference women's soccer tournament semifinals match between New Mexico and BYU. New Mexico's Elizabeth Lambert gets caught on camera doing several things which should have earned her an immediate ejection, however by far the worst, is when she yanks BYU's Kassidy Shumway to the ground — violently — by her ponytail.

Lambert goes way over the edge of decency with her actions. Since then UNM has suspended her and she has offered a contrite apology, which she should but she also should not have ever pulled anything like that.

The most amazing part of it is that only one yellow card was issued in the match, one against Lambert for tripping a player in the box. What were the refs doing? Texting their buddies? Chatting with fans? They definitely weren't watching the game.

NCHSAA football pairings are out

The N.C. High School Athletic Association released its football playoff brackets this afternoon and here's where everyone will be Friday night.

In the 3-AA bracket, Big East Conference champion Hunt will host Burlington Williams while Southern Nash visits Erwin Triton and Charles B. Aycock is the guest of Hillsborough Orange.

In the 2-AA field, SouthWest Edgecombe, the East No. 2 seed, welcomes West Stanly and Beddingfield hits the road to play two-time defending state champion Reidsville.

Potential second-round matchups are Southern Nash at Hunt; Aycock at Gray's Creek, Jacksonville Northside at SWE and Beddingfield (if the Bruins shock the world) at Bunn.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pasteur puts up his projected playoff brackets

A lot of questions are going to be answered by Saturday afternoon regarding the N.C. High School Athletic Association state football playoffs. Actually, many of those will be answered by Friday night.

But, just for fun and maybe a bit more, here are Drew Pasteur's projected playoff brackets. Of course, those brackets are based on this week's picks generated by Pasteur's computer, which produces the Fantastic 50, which currently has SouthWest Edgecombe as No. 8 in the state in all four classifications.

Pasteur also has a list of "bubble" teams and those he feels are already in.. Greene Central and North Johnston, he says, need help even with wins Friday night.

But let's go back to his bracket projections since that's what we're all interested in. Pasteur has all the area 3-A teams in the 3-AA bracket, which does not contain state-ranked No. 2 Hertford or Havelock.

Hunt is the East No. 3 seed (behind No. 1 Gray's Creek and No. 2 Triton) and the Warriors are slated to play Burlington Williams in the first round. Hunt's potential second-round foe would be either No. 6 Fayetteville Westover or — Southern Nash, the 11th seed.

Charles B. Aycock is the No. 9 seed and would meet No. 8 Chapel Hill in the first round with Gray's Creek or No. 16 Western Harnett next. Rocky Mount is No. 7 and will get No. 10 South Central in the first round.

In the 2-AA East bracket, SouthWest Edgecombe is No. 3 (behind No. 1 East Duplin and No. 2 Reidsville) and will play Eastern Plains Conference rival and 12th seed Beddingfield in the first round. Winner would get the Bunn-Richlands winner. Kinston, at No. 9, would meet High Point Andrews in the first round with the winner playing East Duplin or No. 16 Saint Pauls.

Warriors last area team standing in soccer playoffs

It seemed like the high school fall sports playoffs just started and now they're quickly wrapping up for area teams — except football, of course, which begins its postseason next week.

All the independent and Christian school playoffs are done (and congratulations to the Greenfield boys soccer team and Wilson Christian volleyball team for doing what they seem to do each fall — win a state championship.) For this area, volleyball is over and boys soccer, after just one round, is down to Hunt, which should be around for a couple more rounds.

The Warriors, ranked fifth in 3-A for much of the season, haven't been challenged for much of the season. They might find one Saturday against Jacksonville White Oak or in a potential third-round matchup against South Johnston. But Hunt should be able to get to the fourth round where it will truly have its work cut out against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Jacksonville, assuming the Cardinals are upset before then. This could be one of head coach Dave Miller's best team.

West Carteret head coach Ben Emmons, whose team plays in the Coastal Conference with Jacksonville, told me after Hunt's 5-0 win Wednesday night the Warriors backs will have to figure out Jacksonville's dazzling scheme in the front third of the field.

But no matter what, anyone who wants to win the state 3-A boys soccer championship has known for at least two months it will probably have to beat Jacksonville to get there. So if the Warriors have to do it in the fourth round rather than the East final or the state championship, that's when it going to have to get done. But that matchup, should it materialize, will be in Jacksonville as the Coastal has seeding priority over the Big East Conference.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wilson's Crumpler to be on ESPN2 boxing Wednesday night

Skip Crumpler, the boxing director at Reid Street Community Center, will be in the corner of Jacksonville's Johnnie Edwards who will take on Jason Litzau in a super-featherweight 10-round bout televised by ESPN2 from Camp Lejeune.

Crumpler will serve as the cut man for Edwards, a Jacksonville resident known as "The Lumberjack", who is 15-4-1 with eight knockouts. Litzau, "The American Boy," hails from St. Paul, Minn., and is 25-2.

The bout is part of a three-fight card, including an eight-round welterweight clash between Francisco Figueroa of The Bronx, N.Y., and Raleigh's Rashad Holloway.

The matches start at 8 p.m.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A look at boys soccer first-round possibilities

Here's a look at some probable N.C. High School Athletic Association first-round playoff matchups for our area high school boys soccer team based on the NCHSAA Web site pairings and the conference standings at EurosportScoreboard.com.

In the 3-A ranks, Big East Conference regular-season and tournament champion Hunt, ranked No. 5 in the state, should draw Coastal No. 3 D.H. Conley while Fike, No. 4 from the Big East, will visit Eastern Carolina Conference champion South Johnston. The Warriors' potential second-round foe should be either No. 4 Coastal Jacksonville White Oak or Waccamaw king West Brunswick. If Fike wins, it'll travel to the winner of the Northeastern Coastal No. 1 Currituck-Coastal No. 2 West Carteret match.

In a pretty interesting matchup, Charles B. Aycock, the ECC runner-up, looks to be the guest of Big East No. 2 Rocky Mount in the first round.

In the 2-A East bracket, Beddingfield, the No. 4 seed from the Eastern Plains Conference, should travel to Northeastern Coastal No. 1 Kill Devil Hills First Flight. Had the Bruins beaten Farmville Central in the EPC tournament final this week, they'd likely travel to Waccamaw No. 2 East Bladen.

Greene Central, No. 3 from the EPC, seems to be heading to East Central champion Swansboro. North Johnston, the Northern Carolina runner-up, should get Carolina 9 No. 3 Durham School for the Arts.

The first round kicks off Monday!

Fike girls cross country No. 10 in 3-A rankings

The Fike girls cross-country team is ranked in the top 10 among state 3-A squads in the NCRunners.com state coaches poll for the third straight week. The Golden Demons remained in the 10th spot.

In Saturday's N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A East Regional meet, the Fike girls will be bidding for their first trip to the 3-A state meet as a team since 2007. They also went in 2004 but the Fike boys haven't been since 1984, the last time both Fike teams made the trip.

Triangle Tip-Off showcases potential rising star in coaching ranks

Boy, a few days of flu-like symptoms and a sick toddler can make you feel as though the world is passing you by. But I'm feeling much better today and ready to catch up on all fronts.

I was shocked to see Beddingfield bow out in the second round of the state 2-A volleyball playoffs. The Bruins ran into a tough Swansboro team but I thought they might have gone a little deeper. The anticipated third meeting between the Bruins and their Eastern Plains Conference archrival Farmville Central fizzled as the Jaguars fell to Elizabeth City Northeastern in the second round.

But there will be a third-round playoff meeting of conference rivals as Fike heads to Rocky Mount in Tuesday's state 3-A girls dual-team tennis quarterfinals match.

Moving outside the area and high school sports scene, I had a spy (really a personal stringer in former Hunt baseball teammate and current Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau V.P. of Sports Marketing Scott Dupree) at the Triangle Tip-Off Luncheon today at the Durham Sheraton Imperial Hotel featuring the men's basketball coaches from North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and N.C. Central.

Despite having two hall-of-fame coaches there, the star of the show turned out to be Central's LeVelle Moton, who finished his playing career at the school as its third all-time leading scorer. Moton was the head coach at Raleigh Sanderson High School before joining the NCCU staff in 2007.

Moton, a member of N.C. Central Athletic Hall of Fame, kept them in stitches with a series of one-liners. He reportedly is the cousin of former North Carolina star Donald Williams and has made a name for himself as the personal summertime coach for many NBA stars.

Moton quipped that there may be some hall-of-famers and legends there, but he's the only coach here who's undefeated.

To which his first opponent, Roy Williams of North Carolina, responded that he sure as heck hoped Moton can't make that statement after his first game.

Keep an eye on Moton because he may be coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference before long.

We also have a report of Williams and Mike Krzyzewski sitting on a couch and chatting like old friends, which probably isn't all that surprising. We'd like to think they go home and throw darts at photos of one another but there's a lot of mutual respect and admiration there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Function" facts abound

Thanks to the efforts of Charles Alston and the gracious help provided by Jimmy Tillman and Jim Brett, I have put together a look at the 31-year-old football rivalry between SouthWest Edgecombe and Tarboro high schools.

The Edgecombe County rivals meet for the 33rd time Friday in Pinetops, the much-acclaimed "Function at the Junction" (a term coined in the early 1980s by former Tarboro Daily Southerner Sports Editor Mitch Evans) will boast the first pairing between teams ranked in the top 3 in the state.

But it's hardly the first big meeting in this quintessentially eastern North Carolina backyard brawl. The series began in 1978 when SouthWest Edgecombe, a new school formed from the student populations of South Edgecombe and West Edgecombe (hence, the capital W!), took a 62-0 drubbing at the hands of its established neighbor. That was the Vikings' biggest win in the series while the Cougars' came with a 23-6 win in 1985.

The schools didn't play again until 1982 with the next year beginning a stretch in which they met twice a year — once in the regular season and once in the state 3-A playoffs — in four of five seasons. The Cougars won both 1983 meetings; Tarboro won twice in 1987 and they split in 1984 and 1985 with Tarboro getting the playoff win in '84 and SWE in '85.

Tillman, who coached the Cougars from 1979 to 1990, remembers the meetings from that era as both teams being ranked each time. But Brett, the Tarboro head coach from 1975-1991, doesn't think there was ever a time the Vikings and Cougars met when both were ranked so highly.

"I doubt it," Brett said.

Besides the first game, Tarboro has two other shutouts with the latest being a 42-0 whitewashing in 2003. SouthWest's 18-0 win in 2005 was its only shutout. That was also current Cougars head coach Raymond Cobb's first of four straight wins against Tarboro.

SouthWest, which lost to Tarboro in Cobb's first season after coming over from North Edgecombe where he won two state 1-A titles, handed the Vikings their only loss (13-7) last season before Tarboro lost in the state 2-A championship to Newton-Conover.

There has never been an overtime game in the series which is a distinct possibility Friday night.

If you're going, get there early because "The Junction" (of Highway 43 and Wiggins Lake Road) isn't set up for parking for 4,000 which is what the crowd could easily be.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gillette, one of 'top venues' to host US Youth Soccer kickoff events

Gillette Athletic Complex will again be the site of a major US Youth Soccer event as the top Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 National League boys teams in the country will converge in Wilson for a kickoff tournament Dec. 10-13.

There will be Girls U15, U16 and U17 games played in College Station, Texas. Both kickoff events are being held near the sites of the NCAA Division I men's and women's championships in order to bring the youth players more exposure to college coaches.

There was a press release on the US Youth Soccer Web site which states: " Over the course of the 2009-2010 season, the League will play at top venues across the country including games at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex (Fla.), Bettye Wilson Fields (Nev.), and Wilson Gillette Soccer Complex (N.C.)."

Not that we didn't know Gillette was a pretty awesome venue already but it's always nice to read someone else say it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bass and Cuthrell separated at birth?

It's a good thing they'll wear different uniforms, numbers and helmets on the field Friday night because fans (and parents) might have a hard time telling Hunt running back Caleb Bass, above right, and Rocky Mount quarterback Collins Cuthrell, below right, apart.

The pair bear an eerie resemblance to one another. So much so that Charles Alston, our good friend in Rocky Mount, reports Cuthrell's mother, Dawn, did a double take when seeing Bass' picture on The Wilson Times Web site earlier this season.

One thing is for sure, each player will have to play well for his team to win Friday's 3-A Big East Conference showdown. Cuthrell, a senior, is the Big East's leading passer with 481 yards and two TDs. Bass, a junior, leads the league in rushing with 957 yards and 10 TDs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hesmer, Crew eyeing repeat

William Hesmer and the Columbus Crew are looking good in their bid to repeat as Major League Soccer champions. The Crew leads the MLS with 49 points and a 13-5-10 record as the season winds down.

Meanwhile, Wilson native Hesmer, a Hunt High and Wake Forest University graduate, is still ranked among the top MLS goalkeepers. The 27-year-old is ranked third in the league with a 0.94 goals against average. Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports in his "Crew Review" this is the first time Hesmer's GAA has dipped below 1.00.

Hesmer has seven shutouts, tied for fourth-best in MLS, but he has played significantly less minutes (1,620) than other goalkeeping stat leaders due to an early season back injury.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Volleyball rankings located but something is amiss

I finally found the N.C. high school volleyball rankings . Although no criteria is given and some of the records posted for teams in the poll can't be correct

There are no schools from The Wilson Times readership area in the overall top 25 in the state but several are ranked in their respective classifications.

Beddingfield is No. 11 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-A poll and Hunt is 22nd in the 3-A poll.

Of utmost curiosity is the N.C. Christian School Association 3-A poll which doesn't list five-time defending champion Wilson Christian at all!

So take these for what they're worth.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Warriors No. 5 in NCSCA 3-A poll

The Hunt boys soccer team keeps climbing the 3-A rankings in the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association poll.

The Warriors (11-1-1) are No. 5 while 3-A Big East Conference rival Rocky Mount (13-1-2) remains at No. 12. Hunt's former 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference nemesis Charles B. Aycock (11-1-1) debuted at No. 15 this week.

Hunt has a big game at Northern Nash Wednesday night. The Knights, which fell 3-1 to Rocky Mount Monday, were 5-1 losers to the Warriors in Wilson last month but Northern Nash was without five starters in that game, head coach Joe McCarthy told me. I will be at Wednesday's showdown in Red Oak.

Those are the only teams in The Wilson Times readership area that are ranked but Tarboro is No. 6 in the 2-A poll.

Football rankings for week 7

SouthWest Edgecombe slid a bit in Drew Pasteur's Fantastic 50 high school football rankings as the Cougars moved down two notches to No. 7 but remained the top 2-A team.

No other teams in The Wilson Times readership area are ranked in the Fantastic 50 or in the top 15 in their respective classifications. But here are Pasteur's computerized predictions for this week: Southern Nash (5-1, 3A) by 13 (82%) at Fike (2-4, 3A); #7 Southwest Edgecombe (7-0, 2A) by 28 (98%) vs Beddingfield (5-2, 2A); Hunt (3-3, 3A) by 26 (97%) at Northern Nash (0-6, 3A); #18 Tarboro (6-0, 2A) by 29 (98%) vs Greene Central (3-4, 2A); Aycock (6-0, 3A) by 33 (99%) at North Lenoir (2-4, 3A).

The Massey Ratings have SWE No. 15 overall and second in the 2-A poll which has Beddingfield is 27th, Greene Central 48th and North Johnston 79th out of 97 teams.

In the Massey 3-A poll, Aycock is 19th, Southern Nash 28th, Hunt 36th and Fike 64th out of 95 teams.

Demons drop, Gryphons rise in 3-A tennis poll

Fike 6-3 loss at home to Rocky Mount last Thursday not only cost the Golden Demons the 3-A Big East Conference girls tennis championship outright, it also cost them a spot in the state 3-A rankings.

In the poll released Tuesday by the N.C. High School Tennis Coaches Association, Fike dropped two spots to No. 6 while the Gryphons vaulted from sixth to fifth with one more vote than the Demons. Hang on, these teams could very well play one another again as they have met in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs the past two years.

In the 2-A poll, Greene Central remained No. 2 behind Salisbury.

Here's the whole thing and thanks to Greene Central's Donald Clark for e-mailing me the poll each week!

Week Seven Regular Season-

Team Points
1.  Charlotte Myers Park 50
2. East Chapel Hill 45
3. Greensboro Grimsley 38
4. Raleigh Broughton 35
5. Green Hope 25
6. Wilmington Hoggard 23
7. Winston Salem Reynolds 18
8. Greenville Rose 15
9. T.C. Roberson 14
10. Charlotte Providence 3
Others receiving votes: Pinecrest (2), Riverside (2).

Team Points
1 Charlotte Catholic 80
2 Cardinal Gibbons 71
3. Chapel Hill 58
4. Burlington Williams 44
5. Rocky Mount 41
6. Wilson Fike 40

7. Weddington 28
8. Asheville 24
9. Marvin Ridge 19
10. Franklin 18
Others receiving votes: Ledford (6), Union Pines (5), Concord (2), St. Stephens (2).

Team Points
1 Salisbury 69
2 Greene Central 64
3 Tarboro 49
4 Edenton Holmes 47
5 Shelby 41
6 East Duplin 31
7 North Lincoln 28
8 Maiden 20
9 Brevard 19
10 Topsail 9

Others receiving votes: Northwood (2).

Team Points
1 School of Science and Math   48
2 Mount Airy 45
3 Raleigh Charter School 38
4 Bishop McGuiness 33
5 East Montgomery 31
6 North Stokes 29
7 Gray Stone Day 16
East Surry 16
9 Elkin 11
10 East Wilkes 6                                                                                                 
Others receiving votes:  North Rowan (2).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bailess, Flowers, Murphy to be enshrined at Barton

The Barton College Athletic Hall of Fame will hold its annual induction ceremony in just a few weeks and this year's class has some clout as it coincides with the college's celebration of 100 years of athletics.

Todd Bailess, Class of '99, headlines the quartet that will gain entry into the hall. The former Bulldogs soccer great was the first athlete in school history to be named conference male athlete of the year and was also the Lady Bulldogs soccer coach after graduation.

Will Flowers, Class of '76, was a standout baseball player at the school, then named Atlantic Christian College. The Wilson native has been head baseball coach at Fike High School for 28 years and won the state 3-A championship in 1999.

Teasha Murphy, Class of '96, is the all-time leading scorer in Barton women's basketball history and was a two-time conference player of the year.
Allen Searson, Class of '75, was a former basketball standout.

As part of Barton Homecoming weekend, the induction ceremony and banquet will be held Friday, Oct. 23, at Kennedy Recreation and Intramural Center beginning at 8 p.m. There will a memorabilia display celebrating the 100 years of intercollegiate athletics.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fike girls cross country No. 8 in 3-A rankings

The third NCRunners.com coaches poll has been released and the Fike girls cross country team is ranked No. 8 in the state among 3-A teams.

That's a testament to the work the Golden Demons have done this year as they seem to be headed for another team berth in the state 3-A meet in Clemmons later this month.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Massey Ratings confusing but fun

Just as we have Drew Pasteur and his fantastic computer producing the weekly Fantastic 50, here are theMassey Ratings, which combines ratings on schedule, offense, defense and power. But there's no explanation of how those things are rated which is probably just as well since math was never my best subject.

One cool thing about this site is its Matchups feature, where you plug in two teams and it spits out a final score. I put in Fike vs. Hunt and the computer said Hunt 23, Fike 14. I guess the Warriors' 48-0 in week 2 isn't part of the equation.

Anyway, in the rankings by classification, Charles B. Aycock is No. 16 in 3-A, Rocky Mount is 19th and Southern Nash is No. 20, Hunt is 35th and Fike is 61st.

In 2-A, SouthWest is No. 3, Tarboro is No. 4 and Kinston is No. 5. Beddingfield is 22nd, Greene Central is 53rd and North Johnston is 83rd, spots lower than the team it beat 15-0 last week — Warren County.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fike holding at No. 4 in 3-A girls tennis poll

The latest N.C. High School Tennis Association girls rankings are out and Fike remains at No. 4 in the 3-A poll with Big East Conference rival Rocky Mount at No. 6. The Golden Demons and Gryphons have a showdown Thursday at Fike, which won the first meeting 7-2 in Rocky Mount.

Also, in the 2-A rankings, Greene Central remains No. 2 and Eastern Plains Conference rival Tarboro lurks at No. 5.

The complete rankings are below.

North Carolina State Women’s Tennis Polls
Sponsored by the North Carolina High School Tennis Coaches Association
Week Six Regular Season-Published 9/30/09

Team Points
1. Charlotte Myers Park 50
2. East Chapel Hill 43
3. Greensboro Grimsley 39
4. Raleigh Broughton 36
5. Green Hope 31
6. Wilmington Hoggard 22
7. Greenville Rose 17
T.C. Roberson 17
9. Winston Salem R.J Reynolds 10
10. Pinecrest 5
Others receiving votes: Charlotte Providence (4), Durham Riverside (1).

Team Points
1 Charlotte Catholic 70
2 Chapel Hill 62
3. Cardinal Gibbons 53
4. Wilson Fike 48
5. Burlington Williams 39
6. Rocky Mount 29
7. Weddington 21
8. Asheville 20
9. Marvin Ridge 15
10. Franklin 10
Others receiving votes: Ledford (6), Concord (6), Union Pines (3).

Team Points
1 Salisbury 69
2 Greene Central 64
3 Edenton Holmes 51
4 Shelby 49
5 Tarboro 42
6 East Duplin 32
7 North Lincoln 27
8 Brevard 19
9 Maiden 17
10 Topsail 12

Others receiving votes: Northwood (2), Forest Hills (1).

Team Points
1 North Carolina School of Science and Math   49
2 Mount Airy 43
3 Raleigh Charter School 39
4 East Montgomery 32
Bishop McGuiness 32
6 North Stokes 30
7 Gray Stone Day 17
East Surry 17
9 Elkin 11
10 East Wilkes 4                                                                                                 
Others receiving votes:  North Rowan (1).

Turn football videos into cash

State Farm Insurance has created a fun way for high schools nationwide to compete for some much-needed cash.

"Friday Night Feats" is an online video contest sponsored by the insurance company to to find the most exciting high school football plays this season. Videos should be uploaded to YouTube.com and then submitted to fridaynightfeats.com.

Judging criteria will be athleticism, impact of the play and creativity for the video, including a title and short description of the play.

The grand prize is $15,000 with $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place. There will also be 50 $2,500 prizes awarded.

Cougars keep gaining in Fantastic 50

It's poll time again and by that I mean Drew Pasteur's NC Fantastic 50.

After another big win, SouthWest Edgecombe moves to No. 5 the 50 and to the top of the 2-A rankings, displacing Reidsville.

There are no other area teams in the Fantastic 50 but Charles B. Aycock has climbed to 15th in the 3-A poll.

Pasteur (or his computer) lists Beddingfield at No. 35 Kinston as the ninth-best matchup this week. The Bruins are 17-point underdogs to the Vikings, coming off their first loss at SWE last week.

In other predictions of games involving area teams, Fike is a 4-point underdog at home against South Johnston; unbeaten Southern Nash is an 18-point favorite at Nash Central in a non-conference matchup of 3-A Big East Conference foes; North Johnston is a 29-point underdog at 2-A Northern Carolina Conference rival Bunn; Greene Central is favored by 6 at North Pitt and SouthWest is a 32-point favorite as it shoots for its sixth-straight win against host Farmville Central.

I should add that Pasteur was 144-30 (82.8 percent) last week and is 808-218 (78.8 percent) on the season picking winners. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hunt-Rocky Mount soccer rivalry gets a bit too heated

The Rocky Mount-Wilson high school soccer rivalry seems to have taken on an extra layer with Wednesday night's match between Rocky Mount and Hunt.

Unfortunately, it's not a good one.

In the last four years in the now defunct 3-A NEW 6 Conference, Rocky Mount and Fike were archrivals in girls and boys soccer. There were some spirited games, at times with extracurricular activities spurring the rivalry. Former Gryphons coach Patrick Sensiba, a fiery leader, made it often clear that Fike was the team in Rocky Mount's sights. And Fike, which enjoyed quite a bit of success in the NEW 6, seemed to relish the role of the Gryphons' antagonist.

But when Sensiba departed following the 2007-08 school year, he was succeeded by Drew Nick, who spent one year at Hunt, which was then in the 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference. Nick left Hunt somewhat reluctantly because he wasn't offered a teaching job at the school.

Now the Warriors are in the 3-A Big East Conference, along with Fike, Rocky Mount and the rest of the former NEW 6 schools. Because many current Warriors played for Nick, a natural rivalry has developed. Factor in the status of Hunt and Rocky Mount as state-ranked teams and Fike falling off a bit this year, it makes sense that the Warriors and Gryphons would have some intense matches this season. Fueling the fire is the fact that many Hunt and Rocky Mount players compete together on the same travel soccer teams.

That certainly was the case Wednesday night as Hunt won an emotion-charged 3-1 decision in which two yellow cards (by my count) were handed out to each team. Unfortunately for the Warriors, both their yellows went to high-scoring senior forward Aaron White who will have to sit out two games following his ejection.

CORRECTION: Since White's red card was the result of two yellows, he was merely disqualified from Wednesday's match and will not have to serve further suspension.

But the most disappointing part of Wednesday's match came early in the second half when White was taken down by Rocky Mount's Justin Hartney in the box. White was awarded a penalty kick which he converted for a 3-0 Hunt lead. However, Warriors head coach Trent Dorough took exception to what he thought was Nick yelling to players to "take him out," meaning White.

Dorough, usually a mild-mannered coach, was incensed enough to complain to the officials who conferred with Nick at midfield. Nick denied the claim even though all the Warriors on the bench raised their hands when Dorough asked if they heard him say it.

I must admit I didn't hear Nick say that but I wasn't listening intently. I will say that having known Nick in his time at Hunt, I would be very surprised if he intended for his players to cause injury to a former player. That just does not compute to me.

After the match, Nick was intent on telling his side of the story.

"If I could comment, I would never and have never had one of my kids take another player out," he said. "So the accusations from the coach on the other side are totally false and he should apologize. Not for nothing, he’s created bad blood between us."

Dorough didn't refer to the situation directly in his postgame remarks but did point to questionable officiating. (White wasn't even sent off the field following his first yellow card.)

"I hate we got out of our game, I hate what happened on the sidelines," Dorough said. "I just hate the way the game was officiated. The whole game was just a brawl; it wasn’t a soccer match. It wasn’t fun ... It wasn’t the way I like to play."

It wasn't fun for me either since I know and like both coaches and think the intensity of the match probably led to the situation. Hopefully the rematch at Rocky Mount won't be about this situation because these are two pretty good soccer teams and they put on a good show Wednesday night.

Especially the goalkeepers, Hunt junior Will Jacobs and Rocky Mount sophomore Drew Gorham. No official statistics were kept but both keepers made some spectacular saves as well as boomed punts to keep the opposing offenses off-balance.

Gorham, by the way, played for the Wilson Youth Soccer Association '93 Explosion Blue which included Hunt's Sam Hoeferkamp, among others.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reynell takes Goldsboro boys basketball job

Just a word of congratulations to Patrick Reynell, who is leaving Charles B. Aycock to become the new varsity boys basketball coach at Goldsboro High.

Reynell has served as David West's assistant at CBA for the last five seasons. Goldsboro and CBA have had a good rivalry for a long time, especially on the basketball court and now it should be a lot friendlier.

Certainly Reynell will have a lot to work with at Goldsboro which won the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference last season and is now in the 1-A Carolina Conference, having taken North Johnston's place.

I will miss Patrick calling in CBA game reports, which he was as apt to do as West, who I'm sure will miss his trusted assistant.

Reynell's wife, Carrie, will remain at Aycock where she coaches the varsity girls basketball team and is a softball assistant coach, having played that at Barton College. They are the proud parents of an 8-month-old little girl.

Fantastic 50 for week 6

In case you haven't bookmarked it yet, Drew Pasteur's Fantastic 50 is up for another week of rankings and predictions.

SouthWest Edgecombe (5-0) climbed higher to the No. 6 spot statewide in the Fantastic 50 while the Cougars remain No. 2 in the 2-A poll behind Reidsville (5-0). SouthWest is the only area team ranked in the Fantastic 50 or in the classification polls.

But the Cougars get yet another test, probably their toughest yet, Friday when Kinston (5-0), at No. 23 overall and fifth in 2-A, comes to call in both squads' Eastern Plains Conference opener. Pasteur ranks that as the top matchup in the state this week. He lists Hunt (3-2) at Charles B. Aycock (5-0) as the ninth-best game in the state.

For my money, Greene Central at Beddingfield, another EPC brawl, is just as interesting. For that matter, and for entirely different reasons, Fike hosting Eastern Wayne also intrigues.

For the record, Pasteur likes Aycock by 8, Beddingfield by 10, Fike by 15 and SWE by 10. He went 134-31 (81.2 percent) and is 663-189 (77.8 percent) on the season picking straight winners. On the year, he (and his computer) have come within seven points of the predicted margin 32.7 percent of the time and within three points 18 percent of the time. And he's nailed it dead on 23 times or 2.7 percent of the time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Richardson to South Carolina

Greenfield School senior Brian Richardson has given his verbal commitment to the University of South Carolina, making him the second Wilson basketball standout to become a Gamecock. Jamie Watson, who thrilled Fike fans in the 1990s, also played at South Carolina before a brief NBA tour of duty with the Utah Jazz.

Richardson and Knights teammate Jeremy Jeffers, who committed to Drake University last week, will be able to sign letters of intent during the early signing period from Nov. 11-18.

Two more Greenfield seniors, Darian Cahill and Jarred Hinton, are also expected to sign basketball scholarship offers but neither has made a decision.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jeffers commits to Drake; Richardson likes South Carolina, Alabama

On the recruiting trail, I have word from Greenfield boys basketball head coach that 6-foot-6 senior Jeremy Jeffers has given a verbal commitment to Drake University.

Jeffers will make it official during the early signing period from Nov. 11 to Nov. 18. He had been recruited by a number of schools, including South Carolina and Harvard.

Brian Richardson, the Knights' other highly regarded 6-6 senior, is said to be narrowing his field down with South Carolina and Alabama among his frontrunners. Two more seniors, Darian Cahill and Jarred Hinton, also have decisions to make but both are considering Barton College.

Radford vs. Radford: who gets your vote?

Brothers Chris and Brian Radford made their marks at kickers for the Hunt High football team and both went on to play at the University of Richmond.

Well, now both brothers are on the ballot for the All-UR Stadium Team and you can vote for them as well as other Richmond players at each position. The school is building a new stadium and this is the last year for UR Stadium, formerly called City Stadium. As a season-long celebration, the university is holding an online contest to select its All-UR Stadium team.

Brian, now a senior at Richmond, was a big part of the Spiders' national championship season last year while older brother Chris was an all-conference punter. I'm told by their dad, Mike Radford, they will have a hard time beating former Washington Redskin great Mike Bragg (he of the single-bar helmet in the 1970s), who played at Richmond in the mid-1960s.

But you can help by visiting the Web site and casting a vote for your favorite Radford punter. The punter ballot is only up this week but you can vote as often as you want.

Cougars climbing the Fantastic 50

With its unexpected 42-8 thrashing of Hunt last week, SouthWest Edgecombe has climbed 11 spots in Drew Pasteur's NC Fantastic 50. The Cougars are now No. 9 in the statewide, computer-generated rankings.

SouthWest moved into the No. 2 spot in the 2-A poll behind Reidsville while Tarboro, the Cougars' archnemesis and 2-A Eastern Plains Conference mate, stayed at No. 3. Another EPC team, Kinston, is No. 5.

SouthWest might move into the top 5 in the Fantastic 50 next week if it can win at Rocky Mount Friday night. The Gryphons were ranked No. 8 in the 50 last week but tumbled to 47th after then-48th Hertford County, now 15th, pummeled them 41-20.

Pasteur is predicting the Cougars to win by 11. He picked them to beat Hunt by 5 last week but also had Rocky Mount beating Hertford.

Closer to home, Hunt is an 8-point favorite over Beddingfield, Aycock is giving 19 to Fike, Greene Central is laying 17 to North Lenoir, North Johnston by 14 over Rosewood and, in a battle of unbeaten teams, South Granville is favored by 6 over Southern Nash.

Hanson, Fike girls get state recognition

The Fike girls cross country team isn't ranked but the Golden Demons did pick up some votes in the NCRunners.com cross country 3-A poll this week.

Chapel Hill, back in the 3-A ranks, is the top girls team. The only other team in the East Region that is ranked or received votes is West Carteret.

In the 3-A boys poll, Nash Central is listed No. 7 with Chapel Hill again at the top. The West Carteret boys received some votes.

Fike junior Beth Hanson's time of 19 minutes, 20 seconds in the inaugural 3-A Big East Conference meet at Gillette Athletic Park last week put her at No. 19 on the second Triangle Honor Roll. Hanson's time was a personal record but she's well behind the top time which belongs to Raleigh Ravenscroft's Wesley Frazier in 17:05.3.

Hanson does have the best time in the 3-A ranks, but there are no listings of any Chapel Hill runners so I don't know how comprehensive this list is. It did contain one glaring error as the site mistakenly lists Hanson's school as "Wilson Hunt." I'll bet the Warriors would love to have her since there are only four girls currently on the roster.

Warriors take a week off, move up in the polls

A week (or has it been a month?) off for the Hunt boys soccer team hasn't hurt the Warriors in the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association 3-A rankings.

Hunt (6-1-1) has moved into the No. 7 spot despite not having played since a 10-0 spanking of Southern Wayne on Sept. 9. That was Hunt's only game since winning 10-0 at Southern Wayne on Sept. 2. The Warriors kick off 3-A Big East Conference play Monday at home against Northern Nash then welcome No. 10 Rocky Mount (9-0-2) Tuesday.

Charles B. Aycock (7-1-1) is getting votes but the Golden Falcons remain outside the top 15 in the 3-A poll.

No other team in The Wilson Times readership area is ranked.

Rams, Demons high in girls tennis rankings

The latest N.C. High School Tennis Coaches Association rankings are out and Fike has slipped to No. 4 this week while 3-A Big East Conference rival Rocky Mount inched up to fifth. I guess that poll was voted on before the Golden Demons handed the Gryphons a 7-2 defeat in Rocky Mount Tuesday.

In the 2-A poll, Greene Central is holding firm at No. 2 behind Salisbury.

Here's the rankings for all four N.C. High School Athletic Association classifications.

Team Points
1. Charlotte Myers Park                50
2. East Chapel Hill                        42
3. Greensboro Grimsley                41
4. Raleigh Broughton                    36
5. Green Hope                               29
6. Wilmington Hoggard                20
7. Greenville Rose 17
8. Winston Salem R.J Reynolds 14
9. T.C. Roberson                         12
10. Charlotte Providence 9
Others receiving votes: Pinecrest (3).

Team Points
1. Charlotte Catholic                     60
2. Chapel Hill 49
3. Cardinal Gibbons 42
4. Wilson Fike 39
5. Rocky Mount 34
6. Burlington Williams 33

7. Weddington 30
8. Asheville 16
9. Eastern Wayne 7
10. Franklin 6
Others receiving votes: Ledford (4), Union Pines (4), Patton (3), Marvin Ridge (2), McMichael (1)

Team Points
1 Salisbury 69
2 Greene Central 64
3 Shelby 59
4 Edenton Holmes 54
5 Tarboro 49
6 East Duplin 30
7 North Lincoln 27
8 Brevard 21
9 Maiden 17
10 Topsail 9

Others receiving votes: Forest Hills (3), Northwood (2), East Lincoln (2)

Team Points
1 N.C. School of Science and Math   49
2 Raleigh Charter School 40
3 Bishop McGuniess  38
4 Mount Airy 36
5 East Montgomery 32
6 North Stokes 30
7 East Surry 19
8 Gray Stone Day 15
9 Elkin 11
10 East Wilkes 2     
Others receiving votes:  Hendersonville (1), Spring Creek (1), Alleghany (1)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Interesting week 4 in high school football season

I have to say Friday night's meeting of Hunt and SouthWest Edgecombe was an eye-opener. I don't think anyone expected the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Cougars to manhandle the 3-A Big East Conference Warriors the way they did in SWE's 42-8 win.

Hunt did a credible job on offense but three straight first-half drives into SWE territory ended with turnovers. On the flip side, the Cougars offense barely gave their defense time to rest, scoring on drives of three plays, five plays and six plays for a total of 237 yards, 22 points and 5 minutes, 44 seconds.

Cougars junior fullback Quandre Pittman looked like a man out there, dragging Warriors just as big as he is at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. Even when the Warriors went 4-8 last year, they rarely if ever looked as outclassed as they did at times in the first half Friday night. It was, as one Hunt bystander said on the sideline: "Embarrassing."

But the Warriors needn't be embarrassed. After all, SouthWest Edgecombe entered the contest ranked No. 20 among all state teams by Drew Pasteur in his Fantastic 50. The Warriors, ranked 47th, were five-point underdogs. Granted, Pasteur's rankings took a hit Friday when No. 8 Rocky Mount was slapped down 41-21 by No. 48 Hertford County but the Fantastic 50 does a good job of assessing talent. Probably better than The Associated Press, whose voters like myself really don't get to see that many teams around the state.

The Cougars will visit Rocky Mount Friday and a win there should surely put them among the top 2-A teams in the state and maybe even near the top of the EPC if Tarboro gives up another touchdown to go along with the one the Vikings surrendered Friday night. Seriously, the Vikings and Cougars could probably dominate a lot of 3-A leagues but they're still not assured of winning every other EPC meeting, not with Kinston and Beddingfield in the league.

Hunt better get its head up quickly because it has to play at Beddingfield Friday night and that's always a tough one for the Warriors, who with Rocky Mount's surprising loss, might still be a good bet to win the Big East. Unless Southern Nash keeps chugging along and so far, the Firebirds show little sign of slowing down.

We're a month into the season and already I can see a dozen or more subplots starting to develop!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Congratulations to Charles Davis

Charles Davis, the veteran Charles B. Aycock High athletic director and varsity baseball coach, has been named one of eight statewide winners of the N.C. High School Athletic Association's Homer Thompson Sportsmanship Award.

The award goes to "coaches who make a difference" and is named for the late Winston-Salem Parkland High coach and member of the NCHSAA Hall of Fame. The winners were chosen by a special committee based on nominations from the NCHSAA membership. Each school had the chance to nominate one coach. Davis represents Region 2. The other winners are Marie Lewis of Greenville Rose, Region 1; Art Medlin of South Johnston, Region 3; Paul Hodges of Lumberton, Region 4; Steven Davis, Greensboro Dudley, Region 5; Chris Norman of Shelby, Region 6; David Craft of Hickory, Region 7 and Robert Strong of Hendersonville, Region 8.

Davis, who is in his 20th year at CBA, is also in the Mount Olive College Athletic Hall of Fame. He guided the Golden Falcons to the 2007 state 3-A baseball championship and has sent a number of players into the collegiate and professional ranks. Besides all that, he's one of the most professional athletic directors I know and about one of the best guys anyone will ever meet.

He's due to receive the honor in a couple of weeks at the regional meeting.

I know Charles would never pick up the phone and tell a newspaper he won an award so I hope he doesn't mind me telling everyone that he did and deserves it.

First Fantastic 50 is out

Drew Pasteur has released his first Fantastic 50 high school football rankings of the 2009 season.

SouthWest Edgecombe is the highest-ranked area team at No. 20 while the Cougars' opponent Friday night, Hunt, is No. 47. Other teams of interest are No. 10 Rocky Mount and No. 12 Tarboro.

In the 3-A poll, Rocky Mount is second behind West Rowan while Hunt is 12th. In the 2-A rankings, Tarboro is third, SWE is fourth and Kinston is ninth. Reidsville is No. 1 and Newton-Conover is second.

Pasteur's computer says SouthWest will beat Hunt by five points. It also has Fike by 12 over Beddingfield, Princeton by 14 over North Johnston, Southern Nash by 13 over Roanoke Rapids, Goldsboro by 1 over C.B. Aycock and Greene Central by 8 over Eastern Wayne.

That computer went 140-31 (81.9 percent) picking all games in the state last week.

Week 4 has to be better than Week 3

After a dubious 7-5 performance last week on the Football Forecast, I'd at least like to explain my thinking before this week's disaster hits. The first weekend of the college season left me wishing we just stuck with high school football hereabouts. Now the Panthers enter the fray and I'm completely lost.

But, the show must go on and so, here goes my reasoning.

SW EDGECOMBE at HUNT — There's no doubt this is a tough pick either way but I'm going with the home team which has already been tested once. The 3-A Warriors beat a decent 4-A team in Holly Springs last week and the 2-A Cougars haven't seen anyone who can stay within five touchdowns of them. Hunt 22, SW Edgecombe 15

BEDDINGFIELD at FIKE — The Golden Demons have had two weeks to ponder the 48-0 thrashing they suffered at the hands of Hunt while the Bruins are thinking about their first loss at Southern Nash last Friday. Fike is rested but the Demons are very young and the Bruins are explosive enough to be problematic for a team trying to find its footing. Beddingfield 30, Fike 12

PRINCETON at NORTH JOHNSTON — Princeton is off to a 3-0 start under veteran head coach Russell Williamson, a Rock Ridge High School graduate, but old habits die hard. North Johnston head coach Tom Nelson, who played football at Hunt when Williamson was an assistant there, has been there for three of the Panthers' five straight defeats of the Bulldogs. North Johnston 40, Princeton 26

EASTERN WAYNE at GREENE CENTRAL — Winless Eastern Wayne was picked to finish ahead of unbeaten Charles B. Aycock in the 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference but I don't see that happening now. Greene Central is also 0-3 but that's by a combined 12 points. The Rams get in the win column this Friday. Greene Central 27, Eastern Wayne 16

SOUTHERN NASH at ROANOKE RAPIDS — The Firebirds have won all three games in the comfort of home but they've also done it without some key performers. Even if offensive starters Trendell Lynch and Phillip Dobbins don't play this week, Roanoke Rapids' 2-1 record doesn't impress me. Southern Nash 23, Roanoke Rapids 16

C.B. AYCOCK at GOLDSBORO — The Golden Falcons have surprised me a little with their 3-0 start. I don't have much insight into this particular Goldsboro team but the Cougars, now in the 1-A Carolina Conference (gosh, remember when Goldsboro was a 4-A Eastern Conference power?) are usually tough. Aycock barely beat Greene Central last week. I think CBA comes back to earth Friday. Goldsboro 28, C.B. Aycock 24

NORTH CAROLINA at CONNECTICUT — If this were women's basketball, I might take UConn. Heck, if this were men's basketball, I might take UConn. Even if Skip Holtz were still coaching the Huskies, I'd consider UConn. But none of that is happening. North Carolina 41, Connecticut 14

STANFORD at WAKE FOREST — You know, the Demon Deacons really let me down losing to Baylor (the Duke of Texas) last week so why should I believe they can beat the Duke of the West this week? Wake might better wait for the real Duke to show up. Oh wait, that won't happen until the last game of the season. Stanford 28, Wake Forest 24

DUKE at ARMY — The Blue Devils are just going to have to show me they can win some games before I pick them to win on the road against a team that handily won its opener. Army 31, Duke 21

MURRAY STATE at N.C. STATE — Come on, State. Murray State? Really? Really? OK, the Racers did win 66-10 in their opener last week ... but it was against Kentucky Wesleyan, which is not an FCS school, it's a Division II school. N.C. State 45, Murray State 10

EAST CAROLINA at WEST VIRGINIA — The Pirates got a lot of mileage out of beating the Mountaineers last season. This time, ECU isn't going to sneak up on West Virginia, which is no longer a Top 5 team, or even a Top 25 team. The Pirates can be pretty good this season and, even though this is a non-conference game, they will have to win it to show they're for real. East Carolina 24, West Virginia 21

EAGLES at PANTHERS — It would be easy to take Philadelphia, which had a lot of momentum at the end of last season. Especially since the Panthers didn't win a preseason game and had a lot of injuries to deal with throughout training camp. But many of those injured players are ready and this is the real season and the Panthers are at home and the Eagles won't have Michael Vick for two more weeks. Panthers 31, Eagles 24

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Football rankings with a twist

Drew Pasteur won't publish his first high school football Fantastic 50 until next week, but in the meantime, the rankings guru has given us the rankingsby the school's SAT scores, of the top 50 statewide and top 10 in each classification.

He's also listed the 2008 SAT scores for each team in the final Fantastic 50 from last season, which includes SouthWest Edgecombe and Fike. Sadly, no schools in The Wilson Times readership area landed in the SAT Fantastic 50 or even the top 10 in each classification.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ACC hoops schedules are out

The Atlantic Coast Conference has released its 2009-10 men's basketball schedules.

Defending national champion North Carolina starts off with Florida International in Chapel Hill on Nov. 9 in the first round of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Although that opponent now seems to be up for review.

The Tar Heels will get a rematch with national runner-up Michigan State in the Smith Center on Dec. 1 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and four days later visit revamped Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Two weeks later, Carolina plays Texas in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Duke, which has 17 home games, begins the season Nov. 13 against UNC Greensboro in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils visit Wisconsin Dec. 2 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Duke is also in the NIT Season Tip-Off and in a non-conference affair, meet Gonzaga in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19.

N.C. State will open at home against Georgia State but the date is not final, either Nov. 12, 14 or 16. The Wolfpack will play in the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Nov. 20-22 and host Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 1. State visits Marquette on Dec. 5 and Arizona on Dec. 23.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Humbling first week in the Football Forecast

Well, since it's all high school games this week, the results from the first Football Forecast of the season is in and what a disaster it was for me.

I should have known not to pick against Fike since the Demons stymied me nearly every week in the first part of last season. At least, if I'm going to be wrong, I should go with the home team, right? Oh well, give the Demons credit for the 14-8 victory at D.H. Conley.

Also surprising to me was Charles B. Aycock beating Bunn. Not that I think poorly of the Golden Falcons but Bunn has just been so tough in recent years. Aycock was able to squeeze out a 39-38 win.

North Johnston let me down since I took the Panthers mostly because they were at home but Clinton Union made itself at home in Kenly with a 41-12 win.

Greene Central at home against South Central was a tough call, too, but the Rams couldn't utilize the homefield advantage in their 10-6 loss to South Central, a result that came in so late it didn't make the print edition of The Wilson Times.

But kudos to guest picker Scott Jones for sizzling to a 10-2 week, followed closely by newbie Natalie Sayewich with a sparkling 9-3 mark. She can thank me for steering her away from taking Elizabeth City Northeastern to beat SouthWest Edgecombe. In this case, southwest trumped northeast.

Good ol' Frank Artis, who finished last in 2008, had a strong night as well, going 8-4. In typically Frank fashion, he accurately calls Fike and CBA wins as well as those by Southern Durham over Greenville Rose and South Central over Greene Central but inexplicably takes Nash Central over Tarboro, which won 39-0. Frank also had Northeastern, a 42-6 loser to SWE.

Tied for fourth with me at 7-5 is The Senior Staff Writer. He had a bad week, too, changing his mind on the North Johnston-Union game and it cost him.

Finally, there's Michael Lindsay who'd better get on the ball if he doesn't want to be ridiculed for being the cellar-dweller after his 6-6 start.

I think we need to find some rookie guest pickers. I can't have people off the street humbling us like Scott did this week. If you're interested in sitting in for a week, shoot me an e-mail at paul@wilsontimes.com

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bruins loss is Rose's gain

Although it sustained a huge loss earlier this summer, the Beddingfield varsity volleyball game served notice it will still be a force. The Bruins stopped Hunt in four games – 27-29, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22 — on the Warriors home court on Thursday.

It was a small measure of revenge for Beddingfield which lost two of three matches to Hunt last season, including the 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference tournament. The squads split the regular-season title in each's last campaign in the ECC.

Now the Bruins are the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference and Hunt has joined the 3-A Big East Conference, which is why they were playing so early in the season, instead of at the end. Hunt lost three key perfomers to graduation – Morgan Ballance, Caroline Moody and Alison Ellis — while the Bruins bid farewell to 2008 seniors Mallory Glover and Shaniqua Clay. But Beddingfield also is without its star player from a year ago, junior Jamie DeRatt. The 2008 ECC Player of the Year will attend Greenville Rose this year, leaving not only Beddingfield volleyball coach Jeremy Howard but also Bruins girls basketball coach Debra Pegram and girl soccer coach Glenn Griffin without a key starter.

Reasons for the move are personal and best to leave it at that. However, I feel a pang of wistfulness considering how much the DeRatt family has meant to athletics in that part of the county over the years. Jamie's older sisters, Barbara and Lindsey, were both standout volleyball and soccer players at Beddingfield.

Their father, Jimmy, was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference linebacker at North Carolina in the early 1970s.

Their uncle, Monte, and father lettered in baseball at UNC. Both were star football and baseball players at the old Saratoga Central High School, whose students went to Beddingfield following merger in 1978. Their grandfather was the football coach at Stantonsburg High, which merged with Saratoga to form Saratoga Central.

The DeRatts have long been part of Wilson sports lore and Jamie was writing her own chapter. We're sorry to see her leave but wish her all the best in Greenville. Rose has gotten itself a rose!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Demons, Rams already in midseason form

I haven't watered this blog in a week and I apologize to it and any loyal readers I might still have. A hectic schedule is no excuse for not spending a few minutes a day here.

I spent an hour or so at the Fike High School tennis courts Monday afternoon watching the season-opening match between a pair of teams that might be in Burlington by season's end. The Golden Demons, of course, made the trip last year as they reached the state 3-A dual-team final and Greene Central has won both its 2-A crowns in the past five years.

Fike won Monday's matchup 5-4 against a Rams squad that returns all six starters from last season. Making the Demons' win more impressive was that they did it without No. 1 singles player Mary-Katherine Prince, a three-time 3-A East Regional champion, and junior No. 4 Sarah Flinn.

I've seen Fike play so many tough matches the past two seasons but those usually come when the air is brisk, the leaves are falling and there are pumpkins on every porch. It was kind of strange seeing that intensity when everyone looked like they had either just come back from the beach or were getting ready to go. It was also spooky watching Fike play without Prince, who was out of town. She has been such a constant for the Demons since she arrived on the scene in the fall of 2006.

And Flinn, who was nursing a sore shoulder, has become a mainstay in the second half of the Fike lineup. Lee Matthews' lineup has been nearly written in stone for the past two seasons so it took a moment to adjust to the revamped order for Monday's match.

But one thing was familiar — the sight of senior Connor Allegood alone on the court as Fike's last singles player. I give Connor a hard time about making a habit of going to third-set tiebreakers whenever I cover a Fike match but she was in midseason form after taking the first set from Greene Central's Samantha Taylor, who has tennis in her blood, and then losing the second. But Connor determinedly won the tiebreaker, one of three on the day for Fike, and it proved to be a good omen.

Fike will have a likely tougher road in the 3-A East this year with traditional 2-A power Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons moving up a classification. But the Demons have experience in big matches and could well find themselves back in Burlington. Don't count out Donald Clark's Rams who certainly will benefit from Cardinal Gibbons' move as well.

Before you know it, October will be here and these teams will be playing some really exciting matches, if Monday was any indication.