PIKEVILLE – What a difference a week makes.
C.B. Aycock entered its season opener in the Little River Rivalry with Rosewood last week with plenty of questions to answer after numerous key players were lost to graduation following a 9-2 finish in 2022.
The Golden Falcons answered all those questions and then some in a resounding 43-19 win over the Eagles in the Little River Rivalry.
Meanwhile, Eastern Wayne saw a 20-0 lead evaporate in Dudley, as Southern Wayne roared back for a 22-20 win. The loss snapped the Warriors’ 12-game winning streak in the series, as the Saints earned their first win over Eastern Wayne since 2010.
Aycock (1-0) and Eastern Wayne (0-1) renew their rivalry on Friday night at Hardy Talton Stadium. The Golden Falcons and Warriors first met in football in 1971, and Eastern Wayne has a 15-14 edge in the series all-time. Aycock won last season’s meeting 44-8.
The game can be heard locally on FM 98.3 WGBR, or online at Goldsborodailynews.com, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The Golden Falcons were tasked with replacing critical pieces of their 2022 offense in quarterback Ethan Brock, tailback Daniel Frederick and their two leading receivers D.J. and Kam Prince.
Brock threw for over 1,000 yards with14 touchdowns a year ago. Frederick rushed for over 1,373 yards with 16 touchdowns. D.J. and Kam Prince who combined for over 900 yards receiving with 11 touchdowns.
After falling behind 7-0 against Rosewood on the game’s opening play from scrimmage, Aycock immediately began to connect some vital pieces to the offensive puzzle. Senior quarterback Ray Horlacher displayed supreme poise while engineering a scoring drive in his first varsity start.
Horlacher finished the night 7 for11 passing for 76 yards with a pair of touchdowns. He completed passes to six different receivers and didn’t have a turnover.
“It’s hard for a kid (to wait),” Golden Falcons’ head coach Tom Zietlow said. “You probably always want to be the starter. He was the starter on JV as a sophomore, and then having to sit back and learn the offense and grow as a football player last year. It’s good to see him go out there and not look like a kid who was making his first (varsity) start. He made some good throws and he’s just going to grow more and more each week.”
Junior tailback Ricky Elliot asserted himself against Rosewood as a candidate to be Aycock’s go-to tailback with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just eight carries. Zimere McClarin and Emmanuel Avery both hauled in touchdown passes from Horlacher.
“I think (Ricky) at least for the first game set himself apart,” Zietlow said. “There’s some other guys who will still get chances here in the next couple of weeks to show what they can do. I like to have that competition anyways, feed the hot hand and as the season goes on, you know who you can kind of depend on to fill that role.”
Not all was negative for the Warriors in their loss in Dudley. Eastern Wayne forced three turnovers, including linebacker Jamen Kornegay’s fumble return for a touchdown. Antonio Houpe added a 4-yard touchdown run and quarterback Izeiah Oates found Trondell Smith for a 41-yard touchdown pass.
“Scoring is always a positive,” said Eastern Wayne head coach Leander Oates. “We had opportunities to get down there in the red zone and we were able to capitalize. Most importantly, we were able to capitalize off some of the turnovers that the defense gave us.”
Conversely, the Warriors also squandered chances to add to their 20-0 lead. Leaving points on the field is something that has haunted Eastern Wayne in the days following their loss to Southern Wayne. Coach Oates knows his team can’t afford to make the same mistakes when they travel to Pikeville.
“On the flip side, we were (in the red zone) a couple of times and we didn’t capitalize,” Oates said. “I felt like we had a lot of opportunities to add to that lead and possibly make it 30 points, but we didn’t. Hats off to some of the (defensive) stands that Southern Wayne made, that kept them in it. I was a little disappointed that my guys folded down and didn’t play four quarters. That was a reminder coming in off the weekend that we’ve got to play four quarters of football.”
In last season’s meeting with the Warriors in New Hope, Aycock ran the football 36 times for 292 yards and five touchdowns in a dominant 44-8 victory. The Golden Falcons also forced four turnovers.
After forcing three turnovers with seven tackles for loss in last week’s win over Rosewood, Zietlow is banking on his defense making life miserable for opponents all season.
“I really liked the response after the first play, and after that, we were pretty good the rest of the day,” Zietlow said of his defense’s effort against Rosewood. “That’s kind of what I was expecting from them coming into the year. They’re really the strength of our team, and they’re really the group that’s going to lead us to success.”