Bears welcome Watford home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 5, 2003

AHOSKIE – It’s rare that a playoff game can be &uot;home, sweet home&uot; for both teams, but you can make the case that it will be just that for Hertford County and West Carteret Friday night.

The Bears, hosting a first round game after securing their first playoff berth since 1999, will entertain Ahoskie High School graduate Greg Watford and his Patriots during the opening round of the 3-A playoffs here Friday night.

&uot;I’m excited about coming home,&uot; Watford said. &uot;I want my kids to see what the atmosphere of a playoff game is like at Hertford County and Bertie and places with post-season tradition.&uot;

Watford, in his third year at the helm of the West Carteret program, is trying to build a program and he said that he happily admits he’s patterning after the one that Dealton Cotton leads in Hertford County.

&uot;I’ve learned a lot over the years,&uot; Watford stressed, &uot;But my value system in sports comes from what I learned from Richard Murray and Daryl Allen at Ahoskie High School.

&uot;They probably wouldn’t have ever believed it as big a hard head as I was then,&uot; he continued. &uot;I want to build something here that is like what I grew up in when playing at Ahoskie High School.&uot;

Watford wants his team, which enters Friday’s contest 4-6 on the year, to see what it’s like to have &uot;a small city&uot; in the bleachers.

The coach said he knew his Patriots had a tall order ahead of them come Friday night.

&uot;We’re not on par with Hertford County,&uot; he admitted, &uot;but don’t get me wrong, we’re not horrible either.&uot;

Cotton, in his first year guiding the Bears’ fortunes, was quick to point out that West Carteret was indeed a formidable opponent.

&uot;They have a very talented quarterback,&uot; Cotton said. &uot;From what I’ve seen so far, they have pretty good athletes and are kind of big up front.’

Both coaches know the Bears will do what got them to 9-2 overall and a second seed in the playoffs.

&uot;We’re going to go with what brought us here,&uot; Cotton said. &uot;We’re not going to change now.&uot;

Watford said he knew what got them there and that was the Bears’ skill players.

&uot;We have to stop (Qwenton) Valentine, (Reggie) Wiggins and (Lorenzo) Benthall,&uot; Watford said. &uot;In addition we have to deal with a young man that I’d love to have on my team just like every other coach in Brandon Long.

&uot;I think Ronald (Gatling, HCHS offensive coordinator) has done a good job of getting touches for all four of those guys,&uot; he continued. &uot;We’ll have to slow down their skill positions for us to have any chance.&uot;

Cotton said his team had to focus on the game plan and win the turnover battle to prevail.

&uot;We put a scheme together,&uot; he said. &uot;If we can execute that then I think we’ll be okay.

&uot;Also, we have to cut out the turnovers we’ve had in the last few weeks,&uot; he continued. &uot;Our focus has to be on winning the turnover battle, playing solid defense and continuing to improve on offense.&uot;

If the Bears improve on an offense that already has them with nine wins, it could be what catapults them to the next level. Wiggins, Benthall and Valentine have combined for over 2,000 yards rushing during the regular season while Long has had six touchdown receptions and thrown a touchdown pass during the season.

West Carteret, meanwhile, is building their hopes on last week’s HCHS loss to Bertie.

&uot;Lightning can strike twice,&uot; Watford said. &uot;We need for Hertford County to have another night like they did last week against Bertie and then we need to play as well as we can.&uot;

In addition to quarterback David Chambers, who Watford calls &uot;very special,&uot; the Patriots are led in their triple option attack by fullback Aaron Terrell.

&uot;Those two young men are special,&uot; Watford said. &uot;They have been a big part of getting us to where we are.&uot;

Watford said his team is kind of like the one in the movie &uot;Remember the Titans.&uot;

&uot;We have six plays, all of them options,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re not able to block man on man, so we have to miss a few.&uot;

Both coaches said Watford’s return to Hertford County would make the event more special.

&uot;I think he works really hard,&uot; Cotton said of Watford. &uot;He’s a good coach and will have his team prepared. We must be ready. We will welcome him home, because he’s still a part of the Bear family.&uot;

Watford agreed.

&uot;I’m excited,&uot; he said. &uot;He’s a defensive guy and, over the last 11 or 12 years, I’ve become an offensive guy, so I’m looking forward to matching wits against Coach Cotton.

&uot;I may have more experience,&uot; he continued, &uot;but he has worked for a long time and served under hall of famer Daryl Allen and a guy who will be there in Chip Williams, so I know he will be ready.

&uot;Also, I admire him as a man,&uot; Watford said. &uot;That’s different than just coaching against someone who is just a good coach. I consider him a man of integrity and character.&uot;

Cotton’s first year as Hertford County’s head coach has been one that he will remember – a Northeastern Coastal Conference championship and a number two seed in the playoffs.

&uot;It’s been one of those fairy-tale stories,&uot; Cotton said. &uot;You want to, but you never expect it to actually happen the way it did for us. That is not a credit to me as a coach; it’s a credit to the kids who play the game.

&uot;Our first goal was to win the conference championship and then compete and do well in the state playoffs,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s all part of the plan.&uot;