Greene Central senior quarterback Jackson Batchelor gets his arm into a throw during Friday's final non-contact practice session in Snow Hill. Jimmy Lewis | Times
Fifth-year Greene Central head football coach Allen Wooten directs an offense-defense drill during Friday's practice at Greene Central. The Rams returned at midnight Saturday and held the first contact session of preseason. Jimmy Lewis | Times
SNOW HILL — As evening started to fall over the Greene Central High practice field Friday, the Rams prepared to pass the next signpost in their preseason activities.
After a two-hour session without contact, Greene Central broke for food and film study before returning at midnight to conduct the first allowable, but brief, contact practice under North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules.
“You always have a few fall off when it gets toward the contact days,” fifth-year Greene Central head coach Allen Wooten said. “But the good thing is, we’ve been going all summer. So it’s not like we have to transition into anything as far as conditioning. I feel like we’re as conditioned as we’ve been since I’ve been here, because we ran so well this summer. It’s actually been a pretty fluid transition into the actual preseason part of the schedule.”
Wooten has built Greene Central into a 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference championship contender, having won 18 games in the past two seasons in Snow Hill. The expectation to be in the conversation again post-realignment hasn’t changed with approximately 31 varsity and 34 junior varsity candidates in the program.
“It’s about the numbers we usually have,” Wooten said. “One year, we had in the high 50s, and the first year, we had mid-70’s, but usually that 66 to 68 rings about where we sit. For a 2-A football team with eight coaches, that’s about what you can handle. You want about eight to nine kids per coach, and that’s what we get. It’s a good ratio.”
The Rams expect to bring back capable talent at multiple positions, including wide receiver, running back, both lines and in the secondary. Senior quarterback Jackson Batchelor returns for his second season running the offense. Defensively, Wooten would like to see added depth at his linebacker spots.
“We’ve got some young guys,” Wooten said of his linebackers. “There’s three on J.V. that are kind of competing for a chance to come up. Not early on, but towards the middle of the season. We want to build that depth there, and I feel like we have great depth on the lines. We don’t have any linemen starting both ways.”
While Wooten isn’t sure if Greene Central will necessarily have the best player at every spot, staying out of two-way football is the plan for the Rams to reap dividends at the 2-A level.
“The sky is the limit as long as we don’t beat ourselves,” Wooten said.