BYH, some see the glass as half empty. I say just get a smaller glass and quit complaining....

KEATOR: Predictions ahead of the 2019-20 season


D.H. Conley's Nick Hamilton, back, is brought down by Southern Alamance's Hunter Harrelson during their playoff game on Nov. 16, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Monday, August 19, 2019

No matter who you ask, most coaches, no matter the sport, will tell you that preseason predictions mean nothing in reference to the game itself, and I agree.

However, the idea of making early guesses as to who will still be playing for something come time for the playoffs is not only entertaining, but can set teams up to prove everyone, including myself, wrong. With that being said, here are my preseason projections for all seven high school football teams in The Daily Reflector coverage area in alphabetical order. (Note: These projections are solely based on the regular season. There are no projections for how deep potential playoff runs could be for these teams.)


Projected record: 6-4 overall, 3-3 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference

Playoffs?: Yes

Why?: The Chargers have had roller-coaster seasons the past two years, starting hot before cooling off as they made their way through a strong conference schedule. However, at the end of the regular season, they always find themselves still in the hunt for a state title and consistently extending their incredible postseason streak which currently sits at 18 consecutive appearances.

I expect the Chargers to once again be a model of consistency despite losing a lot of talent, including the departure of running back Ray Darden to graduation. A-G still has plenty of other talented to backs to fit any situation, and it will undoubtedly pay off at an important point in the season.

D.H. Conley

Projected record: 8-3 overall, 5-1 in 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference

Playoffs?: Yes

Why?: Yes, the Vikings lost a dominant player for the second straight year, but I think they will remain a top contender for a conference title this season.

Quarterback Nick Hamilton looks even more confident in his offensive ability than he did at the conclusion of last season, and the Conley wide receivers group should have no issue moving the ball without CJ Johnson. While stopping Johnson was a focal point for every opponent, this year they will have to find a way to stop a larger group that includes Charlie Dees, Matthew Rostar, LeShaun Atchinson and others. I do believe the team will have to fight a little harder defensively after the graduation of Nyck Brown, Johnson and Reed Chandler, all of whom played important leadership roles on the field to go along with their high level of talent.

My only loss in conference play for DHC is against J.H. Rose, but that game could easily come down to the wire and will play an important role in deciding who claims the conference title come season’s end.

Farmvile Central

Projected record: 2-9 overall, 1-4 in 2-A Eastern Plains Conference

Playoffs: No

Why?: Last season’s 3-8 record was disappointing for the Jaguars, but a coaching change, combined with the loss of top player Keziah Everett, who has now joined the East Carolina football program, will only make things more difficult for the Jaguars in 2019.

There are bright spot,s however, as FC holds a very young roster along with plenty of athleticism. Head coach Eddie Rhodes aims to open up the offense to an increased passing game, which will be led by freshman quarterback Brandon Knight. Suggs, who played quarterback last season under former head coach Scott Gardner, rarely saw his number called to throw the ball, though this season Knight will hear his number called to see if he can produce big plays. He will be prone to freshman mistakes as he learns to adjust to the speed and intensity of varsity high school football.

It will be a rebuild season for FC as Rhodes begins to change the culture and implement his scheme into the program.

Greene Central

Projected record: 7-4, 4-2 in 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference

Playoffs: Yes

Why?: Like FC, Greene Central also is entering the season with a new head coach in Jay Wilson, who was promoted to head coach after the departure of Allen Wooten to Havelock. In six seasons with the Rams, Wooten’s teams never missed the playoffs, placing high expectations for Wilson in his first season.

Wilson had already been around the program as the junior varsity head coach and varsity defensive backs coach, giving him a relationship with the team prior to his promotion. This season, he will have a talented running back to highlight his offense in Knowledge Branch while also working with new quarterback, junior Cole Dawson.

After coming close to defeating South Central last season in Week One, the Rams could actually finish at 8-3, but the depth of the Falcons is what gave them the edge in my projections. Other games on the schedule will also be difficult, such as Kinston, West Craven and Ayden-Grifton.

J.H. Rose

Projected record: 9-2, 6-0 in 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference

Playoffs: Yes

Why?: The Rampants are my pick to walk away conference champions this season in what should once again turn into a three-way slugfest between JHR and rivals South Central and D.H. Conley.

An explosive offense led by junior quarterback Wade Jarman and a defense with Silas James in control could cause trouble for every opponent. Head coach Dave Wojtecki said the Rampants also have three returning starters to the offensive line, including senior center Storm James. A strong O-line is the key to any offensive success, which is what puts Rose ahead of others in my opinion.

The Rampants’ run game is also interesting, as Jarman’s ability to move the ball on the ground or hand of to power running back Shaquan Perry or speed back Micheal Allen will keep defenses on guard. Add outside receiving threats such as 6-foot-4, 220-pound Kevin Hamilton, and the Rose passing game should return again this season as a major threat.

North Pitt

Projected record: 2-9, 2-3 in 2-A Eastern Plains Conference

Playoffs: No

Why?: There has been major growth in Bethel as head coach Greg Watford enters his second year with the Panthers.

His young core has now fully grasped Watford’s expectations, but a brutally difficult schedule puts a serious cap on how much that growth will translate into wins. The growth will provide a break to the three-consecutive 1-10 seasons for NP, however, as it defeats North Johnston and rival Farmville Central.

The main trio of quarterback Alex Espinosa-Johnson, running back Raheem Jones and wide receiver Steven Carroll will take control on both sides of the ball. Carroll and Jones have also both made primary position changes. Jones, who put on more than 10 pounds of muscle this offseason, will move to nose guard on defense, while Carroll, who spent most of his time at defensive end, has dropped 30-pounds and will become mostly a wide receiver. Other major names returning are On’teds Harris, Zaiere Bradley and Ti’shawn Spence.

South Central

Projected record: 9-2, 4-2 in 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference

Playoffs: Yes

Why?: The Falcons will take a step back this season after graduating a highly talented 22-man senior class last season, which included big names such as Nazir Monroe-Smith, Phillip Chen, Christian Barnes and Jeremy Lewis.

Head coach Andy Tew and the Falcons were picked to finish second in the conference’s preseason coaches poll, but he admitted that making a dominant run like last season will be much more difficult. Leading the charge will be quarterback Justin Humphries, who will have to find another top target outside of Lewis. This season, the QB will have some length at receiver, particularly in seniors Zion Price and Jyquan Shepard, both of whom stand at 6-4.

Another benefit is a strong offensive line, which Tew called the largest and strongest he’s had since his arrival in Winterville. Even with a strong line and a couple of returning playmakers, I believe it will be difficult for South Central to repeat as conference champions and make a deep run in the 4-A state playoffs.

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


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

High Schools

September 14, 2019

For the fifth straight year, Ayden-Grifton claimed bragging rights over in-county rival Farmville Central, beating the Jaguars 40-12 at Farmville Central High School.

With the win, the Chargers moved to 3-0 on the season and improve their record against the Jaguars to 26-24. Farmville Central…


September 14, 2019

South Central held off an impressive effort from Pitt County rival North Pitt on Friday night in Bethel, outlasting the Panthers 44-30.

After a blowout loss to SouthWest Edgecombe last week, the Falcons (3-1) had to face considerable opposition from the winless Panthers (0-3).

South Central running…

091319-SC/NP FB

September 13, 2019

A late goal by Jesus Angel pushed D.H. Conley to victory over 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference leader New Bern Thursday night, 2-1.

After ending the first half deadlocked at one goal a piece as DHC's (5-2-1, 1-1) Massimo Mannino (1 goal, 1 assist) and New Bern's Brayden West (1 goal) recorded…


September 13, 2019

Four weeks into the 2019 football season and teams and fans have yet to complete week without weather causing issues. This week may be no different, as the potential for severe weather could once again factor in scheduling and travel for teams. Look below for insight into this weeks match-up.



September 12, 2019

North Pitt sophomore defender Luis Cantera can be heard from well off the pitch when the Panthers are in action, directing teammates and providing encouragement. Preps beat writer Jake Keator spoke with Cantera about leading his team and his history with the sport.

Q: You're a very vocal leader out…

091219-Luis Cantera

September 12, 2019

The North Pitt boys soccer team walked away with a tight non-conference victory over Ayden-Grifton Wednesday night, 2-1, in Littlefield.

Josue Jeronimo and Juan Carlos Salcedo notched goals for the Panthers (3-4), while Luis Cantera recorded an assist. Alex Hernandez earned the Chargers' (0-4-2)…


September 11, 2019

Experience proved valuable for the D.H. Conley volleyball team Tuesday night, as they swept crosstown rival, and 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference foe J.H. Rose in straight sets, 25-20, 25-22 and 25-12.

The win marked seven straight wins via sweep for DHC (7-0, 3-0) and ended a three-match win…

September 11, 2019

Area football teams found themselves in familiar territory last week, as they frantically searched for ways to play their Week Three games ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian Thursday evening. Many pushed their games to to Sept. 3 hoping to avoid any weather that may impact the fields, but in…


September 10, 2019

With two weeks to go before tryouts were set to begin for the Farmville Central volleyball team, former head coach Ashlee Langston decided she would not be coaching this season.

With limited time remaining before the preseason started, former North Carolina A&T standout Alyssa Pitt was hired…

September 10, 2019

Six days after initially rescheduling their Week Four game from last Friday to Wednesday due to Hurricane Dorian, Northeastern and J.H. Rose finally got to meet Monday night, and visiting Northeastern walked away with its second win over a Pitt County team this season, 43-29.

After finishing the…

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