ANDERS: Observations from the gridiron
By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector
Friday, September 22, 2017
When tonight’s slate of high school football games wraps up, we will officially be halfway through the regular season.
With six weeks under our belt, Pitt County’s haves and have-nots have all but established themselves. Four county teams have winning records entering tonight (Ayden-Grifton is off, so its 3-2 mark won’t change), while the other two have a win apiece.
The season has produced its share of storylines thus far, along with some dramatic games, some crushing injuries and a couple of interesting moments.
COLLISION COURSE: South Central and D.H. Conley possess the best records in the county, each sporting a 4-1 mark. Both begin Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference play tonight, with Conley traveling to Eastern Wayne and South Central partaking in a crucial county matchup with J.H. Rose.
The Vikings being here is no surprise, but the Falcons remain the most intriguing team in the county with a slew of playmakers on offense and a chip on their shoulder. Conley and South Central are slated to battle in the last week of the regular season on Nov. 3. Obviously, a lot can change between now and then, but given the way the year has gone thus far and the way those two teams have shown to be arguably the two best teams in the conference, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to imagine that game being for a conference title.
RESILIENT RAMPANTS: The third county team in the ECC 3-A/4-A might have something to say about that if it can get pointed in the right direction. Rose (1-4) could spoil that season-ending scenario with a win at home tonight against the Falcons.
The Rampants were the last team in the county to get their first win, which came last week. Though nearly everyone — coaching staff included — expected a rocky start to the year with a squad comprised mostly of juniors, Rose’s rough first four games was a bit of a shock. The team has talent at key spots on offense, but has struggled to get on the same page and eliminate mistakes. A win tonight would be a message that JHR isn’t dead yet this season, but a loss could be a sign that a long year is about to get even longer.
BYRD MAN: If the first six weeks have made any kind of point, it’s this: Whatever you do, don’t kick the ball to Rashadeen Byrd.
The Ayden-Grifton running back has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in three straight games, the last two of which were key scores in games the Chargers won over county foes Farmville Central and North Pitt. A-G has its bye this week, and it feels safe to say that despite some early hiccups, it will be strong once Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference play starts.
EPC QUESTIONS: Pitt County’s two Eastern Plains 2-A Conference teams have been tough to figure out.
Farmville Central started the year strong, then was hit by its seemingly usual wave of injuries ahead of last week’s trip to Greene Central. So, of course, the Jaguars went out and won anyway to improve to 3-2. If they can plug the holes they have, that team still has the ability to be a problem in that conference.
North Pitt (1-4) is riding a four-game losing streak, but the Panthers have shown strength they haven’t had for at least two years at certain points this year. They have lost 12 straight conference games, but interim coach Garrett Wingate has NP contending for wins and it seems to be a given they will grab at least one and maybe more when league play begins.
South Central (4-1) at J.H. Rose (1-4)
The records make this seem like a mismatch, but this is likely to be a close game. Rose eked by the Falcons last season — 20-19 — in a sloppy contest on both sides, but this year feels a bit different with SC loaded and the Rampants seemingly reeling.
South Central enters with a two-point loss to SouthWest Edgecombe the only thing separating it from a 5-0 record. Rose is coming off the boost of its first win of the year, but SC’s dynamic offense, which averages 410.0 yards per game, puts it in prime position to pick up what may be the most noteworthy win of the season thus far.
D.H. Conley (4-1) at Eastern Wayne (3-1)
D.H. Conley is the hottest team in the county, putting together a four-game win streak after dropping its season opener. With their offense doing its normal rampaging, the Vikings’ defense has allowed just eight points in the last two games and shut out West Craven a week ago.
That was the first time the Vikings have blanked an opponent since, coincidentally, a 42-0 win over Eastern Wayne last year. This year’s Warriors suffered their first loss last week (40-21 to Greene Central), but does have an offense that averages 329.8 yards per game that is split almost perfectly even between the run and the pass (165.0 rushing, 164.8 passing).
Farmville Central (3-2) at West Carteret (4-1)
West Carteret took a lump last week in the form of a 38-0 loss to Lee County, but that’s softened when considering Lee County is ranked No. 5 in the 3-A classification.
Before that, the Patriots won their first four games by a combined score of 166-48, meaning tonight could be a long one if Farmville Central doesn’t find some offensive production early to stay in it. Then again, the Jaguars appeared underdogs last week against Greene Central and wound up with a 24-20 road victory.
North Pitt (1-4) at Hertford County (2-2)
North Pitt’s second straight road game takes it to Ahoskie to battle a Hertford County team that lost 55-27 to South Central a week ago. The Bears average 215.0 yards per game through the air compared to 159,0 on the ground, meaning NP’s secondary could be tested tonight.
The Panthers dropped a 24-14 decision to Ayden-Grifton last week, but appear to be gaining steam in the flexbone offense with quarterback Izarion Blango and running back Tyren Jenkins. As that unit continues to jell, NP could be an issue for the defenses on its schedule.
Contact Jordan Anders at email@example.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.
Conley girls win
Team scores: Conley 25, New Bern 66, South Central 70, J.H. Rose 72.
DHC leaders: Alysa Mclaughlin, 1st; Camryn Maloney, 3rd; Emma Cole, 7th; Hannah Higgins, 8th; Kenzie Gill, 9th; Olivia Chiancone, 10th.
Chicod 2, Wellcome 0
Scores: 25-8, 25-0.
Leaders: C — Anna Sawyer 18 aces, 3 assists; Carson Fleming 4 aces, 4 kills.
Chicod 2, Wellcome 0
Scores: 25-4, 25-18.
Leaders: C— Leah Carmello 7 aces, 2 kills, 4 assists; Caleigh Cole 7 aces, 2 assists.
Record: Both Chicod teams 4-0.