Northampton –East has tough schedule

Published 6:09 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

CREEKSVILLE – Northampton County High School – East has made strides in the three years Greg Watford has been Athletic Director and Head Football Coach.

The veteran skipper, however, refuses to take all the credit for the improvement within the Rams’ football team or athletic department.

“We’re making strides at Northampton-East,” Watford said. “We’ve had so much support from the administration as we’ve tried to improve football and athletics in general.

“I believe if we do well in football, we’ll do better academically and we’re already a school that made high growth,” he said. “I appreciate all the support we’ve gotten.”

The support has the Rams in position to contend during Watford’s third season, but if they do they will have to march through an incredibly tough non-conference slate.

Northampton will open the season by hosting Edenton August 21 in their first game. The 2-A Aces will present an early challenge for the Rams.

“It’s the first time we’ve played them since I’ve been here,” Watford said. “I played them when I coached at Hertford County, so I know what kind of job Coach (Bob) Turner does over there. It’s a good early barometer for us.”

After the home game with Edenton, the Rams will take to the road for a game at Perquimans.

“We felt like last year we let one get away from us against Perquimans,” Watford said. “They have a good program and it was a good matchup for us with someone who we will have the potential to see in the playoffs.”

On September 4, Northampton will take the trip to Rocky Mount High School for a contest with the 3-A Gryphons.

“We have had a few games in my career when we were the prohibitive underdog and were fortunate enough to win,” Watford said. “Do I think we can do that now? I don’t know.

“What I do know is they are a class program and it will give our kids the chance to play in a big-time stadium,” he continued. “It will be the ultimate barometer.”

A week later (Sept. 11), the Rams will be home for a contest with 2-A Bertie High School. The game will be a battle between neighboring counties as well as a contest between Watford and good friend Tony Hoggard, the Head Coach at Bertie.

“I’m excited about that,” Watford said. “Tony and I are good friends and they needed a game and so did we. We wanted to play someone who would be a stern test, but a good group of guys.”

The coach also said he believed the close proximity of the schools would provide a good gate receipt for the two years.

The final non-league game will be against Currituck High School, a 3-A squad.

“They needed a game and we had been dropped by Northeastern,” Watford said. “Besides, I thought it was a chance to see how our speed matches up against a bigger, stronger team. They remind me a lot of the western 1-A teams and if we’re fortunate enough to make a state championship game, I want to have seen a team like this.”

Watford said he knew the non-league slate was tough and had prepared his kids for it.

“I told them we could be 0-5 and still win a state championship,” he said.

Those hoping the schedule will get better once the Rams get into the Tar-Roanoke Conference didn’t get their wish.

Northampton-East opens the TRC season with a date against Northampton-West on September 25. One thing that did play in the Rams’ favor is that they will be in the friendly confines of Roy F. Lowry Stadium.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” Watford mused. “West coming in is a rivalry game and we have some history. Two years ago, we thought we were playing a little better and they got us and last year they were better than we were, but we were able to get them.”

The next three games will be road contests as the Rams go to Gates County (Oct. 2), North Edgecombe (Oct. 9) and Weldon (Oct. 16).

“Gates County is a team on the rise,” Watford said. “Coach (Matt) Biggy had them improving all the time. They’re going to get that thing turned around, we just hope they don’t do it that week.”

As for North Edgecombe, Watford said the team was down because of numbers, but still dangerous.

Then the Rams travel to Weldon for a key Tar-Roanoke game.

“Coach (Grady) Williams and I have been friends for a long time,” Watford said. “The first year we beat them and then they beat us last year. They’re the pick to win the league and they’re a great team.

“They’re one of the reasons we’re playing such a tough non-conference schedule,” the coach added. “We want to be ready to execute and go after them and have a chance to win.”

The Rams close out the season by hosting KIPP Pride (Oct. 23) and Southeast Halifax (Nov.6).