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Friday night football returns to forefront

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Despite the uncertain forecast, varsity football teams representing The Wilson Times readership area have presented a unified front for the first week of the 2019 season.

Football will be played as scheduled.

While a handful of teams across the state chose to move games up to Thursday night in fear of showers and thunderstorms, all seven teams area teams scheduled for action will take the field on the traditional high school playing date.

Five of those teams will open at home, while four will be under the direction of new head coaches.

Among the teams playing in friendly environments will be the Hunt Warriors, making their debut under the direction of Ryan Sulkowski as Eastern Wayne comes to town.

Beddingfield, led into battle by former SouthWest Edgecombe defensive coordinator Carl Smith, is at Bruins Stadium to face the challenge of Southern Wayne, while Southern Nash prepares to welcome the Eagles of Warren County. 

In Wayne County, the “Little River Rivalry” undergoes another chapter as Charles B. Aycock gets a visit from Rosewood. Over at Ben E. Strifert Stadium in Kenly, the Michael Barnett era gets underway with North Johnston playing host to Red Springs.

Fike and Greene Central are the only two area teams on the road to begin the season, with the Golden Demons visiting Greenville to face J.H. Rose, the preseason favorite to win the split 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference.

Greene Central will receive a stern challenge to open the Jason Wilson administration, with the Rams visiting Winterville to take on South Central and the defending 3-A/4-A ECC champion Falcons.

SouthWest Edgecombe, the defending 2-A Eastern Plains Conference champion, will observe a bye during the opening week of the season.

At all sites, kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

QUICK HITS

The Sulkowski era begins at Warrior Stadium, where Hunt will rely on the services of senior Tiquez Taylor. He’s expected to be all over the field for the Warriors, including quarterback and cornerback as Hunt attempts to maximize the touches of arguably its best player. The Warriors were 4-7 a year ago under Keith Byrum, who was not retained as head coach but was kept on staff as defensive coordinator by Sulkowski upon his arrival.

Fike visits Greenville Rose attempting to start the process of making amends for a 4-6 season in 2018. It was the first time since 2012 — head coach Tom Nelson’s second year on the job — that the Golden Demons failed to finish with at least a .500 record. A quarterback battle raged throughout the preseason, but sophomore Demari Daniels appeared to gain the inside track as the final days wound to a close.

Smith arrives at Beddingfield with the benefit of a junior varsity roster following a one-year absence in that regard. Senior Jalil Hutcherson leads the backfield and appears ready to go in the Bruins’ new power-I offense after suffering a shoulder injury in a preseason scrimmage against Greene Central.

However, no significant damage to Hutcherson’s shoulder was reported. Projected to finish in a tie for second in the EPC with Nash Central, the Bruins won nine games in 2018, the final season for alumnus James Ward before his departure to 4-A Raleigh Wakefield.

Southern Nash, which was ousted from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs in the second round with a wild 57-56 loss to Eastern Alamance a season ago, is back and ready to make another attempt at a deep postseason run.

Winners of the last three 3-A Big East Conference championships in unbeaten fashion, the Firebirds bring back most of their offensive line and senior running back Quinton Cooley, a Wake Forest commit. Cooley is the school’s single-game rushing record holder.

A bevy of talent at the skill positions returns for head coach Steve Brooks at C.B. Aycock, including quarterback Clay Matthews, running back Taevian Jackson and wide receiver Alijuan Moore. The trio will go a long way toward determining if the Golden Falcons will gain a precious home playoff game in Hardy Talton Stadium and give Brooks his first winning season in Pikeville.

The Falcons haven’t lost the Little River Rivalry since 2000.

Triple-option football makes its way to Kenly, as the Panthers have enough intriguing pieces to make the approach a headache for opposing defenses.

With Red Springs as the opponent, the Barnett era at North Johnston begins with a senior quarterback in Camden Aycock, junior running back Camron Privette and senior Smithfield-Selma transfer Rakuan Rodrigues. The Panthers, 3-8 last season in Jon Riba’s final campaign, do not have a player on their roster that has participated in a postseason contest.

Formerly the junior varsity head coach at Greene Central, Jason Wilson leads the varsity Rams into action for the first time, replacing Allen Wooten, now the head coach at 3-A power Havelock.

Junior quarterback Cole Dawson and senior running back/linebacker Knowledge Branch pace the Rams, who went 6-6 in Wooten’s final season.

South Central enjoyed an unbeaten regular season in 2018, but was ousted in the first round of the NCHSAA 4-A postseason by Hope Mills South View.

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