AHOSKIE – Together again once more.
The Pigskin Prognosticators will once again fill the pages of each Thursday edition of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. The group, which has changed shape over the years, has been a fixture in the News-Herald for more than 20 years.
This year’s group changes dramatically from recent years. Those changes begin at the lead of the pack where Russ Russell, a multiple-time winner of the poll has stepped aside due to his schedule. Russell will take at least a year’s leave of absence.
Leading those who will be returning is the defending champion of the Pigskin Prognosticators, Gattis Hodges of Woodland. Hodges, who is the host of &uot;Talkin’ Sports&uot; on WDLZ-FM 98.3 in Murfreesboro, took last year’s poll with a record of 132-38.
Also back will be veteran forecasters Cal Bryant, Billy Harrell, Thadd White, Mike Dail and Ron Cooke.
Bryant, the Editor of the News-Herald, has been a regular panelist for as long as the feature has been in existence. He finished last year 119-51.
A 14-year veteran Sports Writer, Billy Harrell is in the competition to win each year and is a former winner of the poll. Harrell was 123-47 in 2005.
Yours truly serves as sports editor for this paper and has finished no higher than third in my years on the poll. Last year I finished tied for last with a 106-64 mark.
Mike Dail coached football at Northampton County High School – West and Lawrence Academy. Last year Dail was second with a 128-42 mark.
Cooke has been a panelist for the past nine years after having served as athletic director and head football coach at Bertie High School. Last season he finished fourth with a mark of 124-46.
Also returning this season will be Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Publisher Jeff Findley and Sports Writer Heather Odom.
Findley will be in his second season as a forecaster after finishing with a mark of 114-46 in 2005.
Odom has been a regular panelist for three years and finished last year with her best effort, coming home with a 116-54 mark.
Three who joined the poll a year ago will be back for a second season. They are Chowan University Assistant Athletic Director Meredith Long, Howard Hunter III, a Hertford County Commissioner and an officer with Hunter’s Funeral Home, and Mike Williams, a co-editor of ncisaa.com and a guru of private school football.
Last season Long posted a mark of 115-55 mark while Hunter finished with a 106-64 record. Williams burst on the scene and finished with a 127-43 mark, good enough for a third-place showing.
With those 11 people will be five newcomers to the poll, three of which will come from the staff of the News-Herald.
Composition Manager Lauren Morris will be in her first season picking local prep football games. She is a member of the newspaper’s News-Herald Cup, where she ranks in the top five annually.
Also on the poll will be Staff Writer Curly Morris, a former Nebraska University football player who attended Bertie High School.
The third new member from the Herald staff will be Graphic Designer Patrick Bryant, who played high school football at Northeast Academy.
Also joining the group will be Roanoke Electric Cooperative Vice President Marshall Cherry. A 1988 graduate of Bertie High School, Cherry holds the record for the longest touchdown reception in Falcon history.
The final member of the Pigskin Prognosticators will be Northeast Academy basketball coach John Brown. An insurance agent with Farm Bureau in Jackson, Brown has been a regular as a guest picker in the last several years.
Each week the 16 regular panelists will forecast 10 high school and college football games. The games will include local prep games in the four-county area as well as those of Chowan University.