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Chargers look to improve on 6-6 campaign

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Ayden-Grifton football players work out in the gym before practice Monday, June 11, 2018.

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Chargers of Ayden-Grifton High School began their summer football workouts Monday morning, beginning their quest to capture an Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference title. 

Beginning with a series of aerobic conditioning and weight lifting, head coach Paul Cornwell got one of his first looks at the 2018 Chargers.

“This team is already working hard. The first day (of workouts), there’s always some excitement and then the reality hits you that it’s really work about halfway through,” Cornwell said.

The Chargers finished with a 6-6 record in 2017, 3-3 in league play, placing them in the dead center of the Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference. The team was off to a .500 start at 2-2, including a big win against Farmville Central, 21-7, on Sept. 8, before heading into two games as part of the Touchdowns Against Cancer series. The Chargers won both of their games, 24-14 against North Pitt and 63-0 against South Lenoir, pushing their record to 4-2.

They then continued win streak with a road win against Washington, 39-34, but after increasing their record to 6-2 following a close win against Kinston, 27-26, the Chargers dropped their last three regular season games, exiting the state playoffs in the first round after a 42-3 loss to Wallace-Rose Hill.

The team lost 13 seniors to graduation, but returns several of its key starters, including quarterback Blake Mclawhorn. The passer stayed busy over the offseason, being named the champion at the University of North Carolina’s Elite QB challenge camp last weekend. 

“(The award) says a lot about his work ethic,” Cornwell said of his quarterback. “Blake is steady and he works hard. I think one of the things was that he was the most consistent thrower. There were bigger quarterbacks, there with bigger arms and higher-profile guys, but he was the most consistent, and he scored points in every competition and came away with the trophy. We are very proud of him,” 

As a senior and the leader of the offense, Mclawhorn is expected to step up and help lead the team, but he also places emphasis on the entire senior class, showing the atmosphere of one team and one family. 

“You've got Ray Darden who will be returning at linebacker and running the ball some, Mclawhorn at quarterback and Zamar Hatch is someone who has worked really hard in the off-season and put himself in a position to have a good year,” Cornwell said, also mentioning Aaron Pasour as someone he expects to see becoming a true leader of the Chargers.

The departure of seniors from the class of 2018 has left new openings for talent called up from a Chargers’ junior varsity team that went 8-2 (6-0) last season. Cornwell is excited to see how these new players adjust to playing true varsity ball, along with what impact they will make on the team. 

“They are just a good group of kids, not just good ballplayers, but good kids, and that’s always fun to coach,” Cornwell said.

As for any changes to scheme offensively or defensively, Cornwell said that the offense and defense morph every year to conform to team personnel. The core for the Chargers’ playbook, however, will remain the same this season. 

Cornwell’s expectations for the team are to go out each week and improve upon the skills they have learned throughout the offseason and in each game. 

“We always have high expectations. If you don't then you are setting yourself up for failure,” the coach said. “Our expectation is to go out and get better every week, and then we get to be competitive in conference play and work to win a conference championship and then go from there. Then we go to the playoffs and see what happens.”

The Chargers will begin the 2018 campaign on Aug. 17 against Southside (Chocowinity) High School, the beginning of a four-game homestand to begin the season which also includes a showdown with Farmville Central on Sept. 7.

Following a two-game road trip with games against North Pitt and South Lenoir Sept. 14 and 28, respectively, they host Washington, followed by a trip to play Kinston on Oct. 12. The Chargers round out their schedule with home games against North Lenoir on Oct. 19 and West Craven the following week. They finish their schedule with a road test at Greene Central on Nov. 2.

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.

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High Schools

June 17, 2018

The D.H. Conley football team is known for its spectacular athletes. Fast, physical and athletic are all adjectives often used to describe the Vikings players.

The Vikes finished with an 11-2 record in 2017, led by a perfect 6-0 mark in Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A play. With star quarterback…

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June 17, 2018

Ayden-Grifton sophomore Jackson Upchurch knows what it means to work hard and grind to improve at the plate.

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Christopher had an ERA of just 0.72 in his final season with the Rampants, helping to earn him the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference player of the year honor and The Daily Reflector’s All-County pitcher of the year accolade.…

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FIRST TEAM:

Zach Byrum, D.H. Conley: Byrum knew how to punish pitchers from the plate in his senior season. He tallied a team-best .378 batting average, and also led the Vikings in runs (35) and hits (31). He also earned 11 RBIs.

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After a 1-10 season in 2017, the Panthers have a new coach in Greg Watford and they are eager to post a bigger number in the win column.

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June 15, 2018

WINTERVILLE — Pitt County Post 39 put in yet another strong showing Friday night to open the American Legion Showcase Baseball Tournament at Pitt Community College. Post 39 defeated Post 256 of Jacksonville 10-3 to improve to 14-0 this season.

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June 15, 2018

The J.H. Rose Rampants are used to success. They are accustomed to winning conference titles and playoff games, but after a 3-8 season in 2017, the Rampants are looking to get back to those winning ways. 

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June 15, 2018

South Central football and track and field athletes Dexter McDuffie and Emannuel Lewis both signed letters of intent to attend The University of North Carolina at Charlotte and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, respectively, on Thursday afternoon. 

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June 14, 2018

The South Central Falcons are ready to take the next step, the step to a state title.

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