Ayden-Grifton hopes to continue 18-year postseason streak in 2019
Ayden-Grifton coach Paul Cornwell hopes to lead the Chargers to continued success in 2019. Photo by Laieke Abebe / Neuse News
AYDEN — Ayden-Grifton opened football practice for the 2019 season Thursday, looking to make the state playoffs for a 19th straight season. Under head coach Paul Cornwell, the Chargers have been one of the more consistent football programs in the area.
Despite leading for most of the second half, last season ended in a 13-7 overtime loss to Kinston in the first round of the 2A playoffs. Ayden-Grifton lost a few contributors from last year’s team — including standout running back and linebacker Ray Darden — but Cornwell said he saw a lot of promise in Thursday’s practice.
“I think it went well,” Cornwell said. “I thought the guys came out with a lot of effort. We worked hard and we got a lot of things done, so overall, it was a good first night.”
This group of Charger seniors has seen a lot of success. One of those seniors is four-year starting running back and defensive back Michael Webb, who said he wants to put it all together for one final run.
“I just have to soak it in,” Webb said about his final season as a Charger. “With all the experience I have, I’m ready to help my teammates be successful. We have a ‘next man up’ mentality, so everyone has to be ready. I think we can continue to build on this first practice and set the tone for the season.”
Senior lineman Dadrian Howard said he wants to lead by example as Ayden-Grifton looks to continue the postseason streak.
“I want my teammates to be great on and off the field and I want to bring a lot of leadership,” Howard said. “We have high expectations even with what we’ve lost and I think we have a lot of potential. The seniors want to have one great final season so hopefully we’ll have a chance to make a deep playoff run.”
The Chargers continued practice on Friday night with a midnight madness of their own. Ayden-Grifton opens the 2019 season with a home game against Chocowinity Southside Aug. 23.
“It’s all about consistency,” Cornwell said. “We want to be solid on both sides of the ball and that starts with practice. If we practice well consistently, we’ll consistently play well this year.”