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Pigskin Preview: Eagles ready

LASKER – Northeast Academy welcomes a familiar foe Friday.

The Eagles will play host to Word of God Christian Academy at 7:30 p.m. Friday. In that contest, second-year Head Football Coach Collin Sneed and his team will meet Word of God for the third time since September 2 of last year.

The Crusaders won the previous two meetings, but Northeast has one of the better returning classes in the state.

Sneed said his team has been busy practicing as they prepare for the season opener.

“Practice has been going well,” he indicated. “Unfortunately, we’ve had some really hot days. That means we’ve had to incorporate a lot of water breaks.

“All in all, the team is working hard,” he continued. “It helps that the entire offensive line is back. Their leadership helps.”

Leading the senior-stacked offensive line is center Chris Futrell. He will be joined on that unit by guards Jimmy Baker and Jay Baker as well as tight ends Jay Duncan and Josh Jenkins.

In the backfield for the Eagles will be senior quarterback John Pope, making his first start for Northeast in that position. Senior fullback Brodie Harrell and running back Brandon Futrell round out the stellar Northeast backfield.

Defensively, the Eagles are counting on linebacker Arch Harrell and defensive guard Wesley Bryant to anchor a younger unit. Sneed said both have stepped up in the early going of the 2007 campaign.

As he looks to begin his second year at the helm of Northeast Academy’s football program, Sneed said fans should not expect major changes in the team’s direction.

“We’re going to run hard, block hard and try to control the clock,” he insisted.

As for Friday night’s visitors, Sneed said he knew what his team was preparing for.

“They are going to be a tough outing,” he said. “They have a lot of talent. It will give us a chance to see where we’re at right now.”

Sneed said the Crusaders were the number two team in the eight-man league at this point.

Sneed came to Northeast, after a successful prep career at Hertford County High School, a solid collegiate career at Appalachian State University and a professional career with the Carolina Grizzlies.

Since he has been a winner his entire career, Sneed quickly set his goal as returning the Eagles to prominence. His team took the first step last season when they made the playoffs for the first time in more than 20 years.

He said they have plans to continue that return to the upper echelon of the state this season.

“We want to take a couple of steps,” he said. “Our first goal is to finish over .500 for the season. Then we want to make the playoffs again.

“Our ultimate goal is, of course, to win a state championship,” he added.

As they strive towards their goals, the main thing in favor of the Eagles is their work ethic and heart, according to Sneed.

“Most of our kids work all day in the severe heat and then come in at 5:15 and give all they have,” Sneed said. “Our ethics and our heart are our most important keys.”

The Eagles will find out where they are early on when Word of God pays a visit at 7:30 p.m. Friday.