East has good, bad slate

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 1, 2007

CREEKSVILLE – Greg Watford inherited a schedule that is both a dream and a nightmare.

The first-year Head Football Coach at Northampton County High School n East has the good fortune of playing seven games in the friendly confines of Roy F. Lowry Stadium this season.

While that’s good news, the bad news is a 2007 slate that features perennial state powers Rocky Mount, Hertford County, Weldon and Northampton-West.

“Seven home games is a pretty different schedule,” Watford said. “What happened is that I inherited most of the schedule.”

Watford said he did add a home game with Hertford County, but that was because HCHS Athletic Director Charles Simmons was looking for an away game and the Rams needed the gate receipts from having a perennial power in Creeksville.

“It’s certainly not the ideal situation,” Watford admitted. “It’s pretty good this year, but it could be bad next year.”

The Rams will open the 2007 campaign by paying a visit to Rocky Mount High School on August 17, one of the top 3-A programs in the state.

“We look at it as the opportunity to play one of the state’s elite teams,” Watford said. “It will be a great barometer in determining where we are in our progress. My motto has always been we’ll play anybody, anywhere.”

The next week the Rams begin a five-game home stand when Mattamuskeet pays a visit to Creeksville.

On August 31, East will welcome Hertford County in a game that will pit Rams’ Head Coach Greg Watford and Bears’ skipper Diego Hasty against their alma maters.

“This will be the fourth time I’ve been in the position of playing against them,” Watford said. “I did so with Gates County in ’86 and we were outmanned and outgunned.

“A few years later I took Southeast Halifax over there and we took it on the chin again,” he laughed. “You know you get a little older, a little grayer and a little wiser. We came back with West Carteret and managed to get out of there with a win.”

Watford said he had come to understand anyone can beat anyone on any given day.

He said Hertford County was a great program with national recognition, something that was his goal when he took over the program.

“I am hoping our kids don’t go out in awe of them,” he said. “We’re going to do what we do and play hard-nosed football and see what happens.”

Watford said he was looking forward to coaching against Hasty as the two had in the past.

“We’ve been good friends and we’ve called on each other in the past,” he said. “It’s good to see the Hertford County program in good hands.

“The good thing is, regardless of the outcome, we can go on rooting for each other and we’ll both still be able to reach our goals,” Watford added.

After HCHS, the Rams welcome Northwest Halifax and Roanoke on back-to-back weeks.

On September 21, Northampton-East will welcome county rival West on the opening night of Tar-Roanoke Conference play.

“For us, we’ve been down lately,” Watford said. “If we could beat the two-time defending Eastern finalist, it would be a boost for our program.

“Obviously West is one of the best programs in the state,” he added. “If we can play with them, it will say a lot about our progress and where we’re headed.”

The Rams will finally take to the road again on September 28 when they meet T-RC newcomer Gates County High School. The Red Barons are joining the league for the first time this season.

“I’ve told the kids, they have a great tradition over there,” Watford said. “I actually cut my teeth there years back.”

The East skipper also said he knew the Barons would play hard and added that he was impressed with new Gates County coach Matt Biggy.

“They’re a game we have stressed to the kids that we can’t overlook,” Watford said. “Coming the week after West, they could upset us if we’re not careful.”

The Rams will travel to North Edgecombe on October 5 and Weldon on October 12 before returning home for Louisburg in October 26.

As he looks at the league slate, Watford said there aren’t any easy contests.

“Obviously Weldon is someone we’re watching out for,” he said. “This is just not an easy conference. You have West and Louisburg ranked in the state already and many of the coaches think Weldon is the team to beat.”

Another return to the coach’s roots will occur November 2 when Southeast Halifax pays a visit to East as Watford’s first head coaching job was with the Trojans.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Certainly at that time, if we’ve done what we need to, we can have the opportunity to meet our goal of a conference championship.

“I also still have a lot of friends at Southeast Halifax,” he added. “I’m just excited about that date.”