• 70°

Pigskin pickers return

AHOSKIE – It’s a new look for a familiar group.

The Pigskin Prognosticators enter their 26th season with changes that have been made in hopes of updating the look, feel and participation of the longtime tradition in the pages of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

This season 13 regular panelists and a weekly guest will make up the group of those who will forecast the future as they try to project the winners of prep and college football games each week.

Of that group, nine will be returning for at least their second season of making prognostications for the gridiron.

Leading the way will be two-time defending champion Russ Russell. The retired Bertie Ledger-Advance Sports Editor took his second consecutive title by an astounding nine games last season when he recorded a 130-40 mark.

Finishing second was longtime guru Gattis Hodges, who serves as the &uot;Voice of the Bears&uot; on WDLZ-FM 98.3 and is also the host of &uot;Talkin’ Sports&uot; which is the area’s only local sports talk show. Hodges finished with a 121-59 mark a year ago.

Coming home third was retired Lawrence Academy and Northampton-West football coach Mike Dail. The Windsor businessman checked in with a 120-50 mark in his third season on the poll.

Coming home fourth was Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Senior Sports Writer Billy Harrell. The longtime poll member correctly forecast 119 games while missing on just 51.

Two games behind Harrell was former poll champion Ron Cooke. The retired Athletic Director of Bertie High School went 117-53 during the 2004 season.

Coming home next was Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Sports Writer David Friedman. The second-year panelist was 115-55 in forecasting contests.

Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Editor Cal Bryant checked in next with a mark of 110-60 while yours truly, Thadd White, followed with a record of 104-66.

The final regular panelist was Heather Odom, who serves as a Sports Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. She was 100-70 last season.

Joining those nine people will be four newcomers, at least three of which are not novices to picking high school football contests.

Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Publisher Jeff Findley will be a regular panelist and will also serve as a writer in the sports department during the high school season. He has covered prep football for newspapers in Alabama before coming to the News-Herald.

Also new to the panel will be Mike &uot;Eastern&uot; Williams, an eight-man guru who has picked football games for a number of years. The co-editor of ncisaa.com will come aboard to provide his expertise in the area of prep football.

Chowan College Assistant Athletic Director Meredith Long will move from her position as a regular guest picker to a permanent member of the poll this season. She has been a guest for more than five years.

The final new member of the group will be Howard Hunter III, who is an avid high school football fan. Hunter is an officer with Hunter’s Funeral Home.

Joining that group will be a weekly guest. Last year’s panel of celebrity pickers included Clark Harrell, Toby White, Eddie Allen, Randy Whitaker, Bruce Ramsey, Carrie Paquette, Gennia Winslow, John Brown, David Taylor, Diego Hasty, Meredith Long, Brandon Hodges, Skip Cook, Willie Roberson Jr., Elton Winslow, Dwight Manley and Greg Watford.