Junious Smith III: Questions ready to be answered under the Friday night lights
I’m really going to look like the Ryan Hollins of Neuse News, right?
On Wednesday, Bryan Hanks and I hosted the season premiere of the Neuse News Sports Show, and we put together our predictions for the Eastern Carolina 2A. In previous years, I preferred to wait until about the third week of the season to come to somewhat intelligent predictions, but Bryan wasn’t having it.
I’m pretty sure most of my predictions will end up wrong because this is the most wide open I’ve seen a football season here. Each team has the potential for memorable campaigns or have it all blow up in their faces. Across the area, Neuse News will do its part to chronicle the adventures of eight teams as these questions are answered:
Can Kinston replicate the success of last year with a bigger target on its back? The Vikings had their second undefeated regular season in school history and reached the third round of the state playoffs after being projected to finish fourth in the ECC in the preseason coach’s poll
Will North Lenoir force the ECC to respect the flight again? The Hawks were winless in 2018, but have the chance to develop more chemistry with coach Jim Collins in his second year. Additionally, five of the team’s losses were by two possessions or fewer, including a 20-19 decision against Kinston
Can South Lenoir break the playoff drought? The Blue Devils haven’t seen the postseason since 2010, but coach Jeremy Joyner has the team moving in the right direction, including two blowout wins over North Lenoir and Spring Creek near the end of last season
Is Arendell Parrott Academy back in NCISAA 2A 8-man title contention? The Patriots had a down year by their standards last year after making four straight state championships from 2014-17 — winning in 2015 and 2016 — and will also start the season with a pair of 11-man contests
Can Bethel Christian Academy win a second title in NCISAA 1A play? The Trojans are in their fourth year since bringing the program back, and return their entire team sans Cody Dunk from a team who nearly upended eventual champion Northeast Academy in the semifinals
Is Ayden-Grifton ready to break out after the regular season? The Chargers have the longest playoff streak in the region with 18 consecutive appearances, but haven’t won a postseason game since 2016 — something the team is ready to rectify
Can Greene Central keep rolling with a new coach? Jay Wilson took over a program that has seen the playoffs six consecutive years, including a second-round playoff appearance in 2017, and the Rams have the talent to maintain the tune without skipping a beat
Will Jones Senior break their long losing streak? The Trojans haven’t had a victory since defeating Manteo in the first round of the 2016 NCHSAA 1A playoffs and have a great opportunity to end the 22-game skid against Lejeune in Week 1 — the Devilpups have lost their last 33
I wish every team the best of luck in this 2019 season. Make memories, try to stay healthy and handle business in all facets of Friday (as well as the classroom throughout the week because you’re all student-athletes.) If you’re upset about any predictions, just remember I don’t know anything and the opportunity to prove me wrong remains in abundance.
It’s time for another great season under the Friday night lights.