Wolfpack, who shared last year's conference title with East Bladen and South Columbus, aims for another crown with new coach
Whiteville's momentum: It's hard to argue against Whiteville being the conference's best team last season. The Wolfpack won eight straight games to close out the Three Rivers slate and scored 50 points in five of those games. To wrap it up, Whiteville crushed preseason favorite South Columbus 47-14 on the road to clinch a share of the title. With all that said, the momentum could have died with the departure of head coach Luke Little. Jarret Price takes his place and could keep the train rolling. He comes to Whiteville after eight seasons as the offensive coordinator at Wallace-Rose Hill, where he won five state titles. He also brings over his dad, Joey Price, to coach the defense. Jarret has a solid foundation with quarterback Ty Moss back in the fold, but the Wolfpack will need to replace its leading rusher and receivers from last year. Cameron Smith and Jatiek Martin became a dynamic duo for Moss on the outside.
Any challengers?: Whiteville, East Bladen and South Columbus each lost one conference game last year and look primed to duke it out again. Can anyone stand in their way? Fairmont was expected to have a say but stumbled to a 4-5 record in 2017. That opened the door for Red Springs and St. Pauls to fight for the fourth and fifth positions in the conference. Any of those three teams could make some noise with one upset win over the three top dogs. Red Springs probably has the best case for a surprise conference champion with the return of quarterback Denym McKeithan and running back Lee McLean. The Red Devils also have three of their top-four tacklers returning and should be a very balanced squad.
GAMES TO WATCH
Whiteville at East Bladen, Sept. 7: The Wolfpack's only conference loss last season came to the Eagles. It was also the last time Whiteville failed to score 30 points. If the Wolfpack can get revenge, it could set up a magical football season.
Fairmont at Red Springs, Oct. 19: The winner of this game should cement its place just below the conference's favorites, and last season the Red Devils escaped with an 18-12 road victory. That helped Red Springs finish fourth, and Fairmont will be out for revenge.
South Columbus at Whiteville, Nov. 2: The last game of the regular season for both teams could provide an opportunity to clinch the Three Rivers title. Whiteville's stunning 47-14 blowout win last season meant there was a three-way tie atop the conference. There will be plenty on the line again this year, unless East Bladen beats both teams in September.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Trequan Bellamy, senior running back, South Columbus: Ran for 1,804 yards and 22 TDs as the Stallions' workhorse in 2017. He also recorded 61 tackles and led his team with 198 receiving yards.
Ty Moss, junior quarterback, Whiteville: The Wolfpack offense came to life behind Moss last season. As a sophomore, he threw for 1,773 yards and ran for 963. With Keshawn Bellamy gone from the backfield, Moss should put up video-game like numbers in his second full season at quarterback.
Jordan Waters, senior wide receiver, Fairmont: After breaking through as a sophomore, Waters avoided any sort of slump in his junior season with 976 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Fairmont will usher in a new quarterback this season, but Waters should still shine.
Eric Chancy, senior running back, East Bladen: Chancy has the unenviable task of trying to replace Xavier Wooten, who accounted for 1,911 total yards and 29 touchdowns last year. Chancy was second-best on that list, rushing for 792 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Lee McLean, junior running back, Red Springs: 1,514 yards and 14 touchdowns isn't a bad way to start your varsity career, and McLean will look to take the next step and lift Red Springs into the upper echelon of the conference.
LAST YEAR'S STANDINGS
Whiteville (11-2, 8-1)
East Bladen (12-2, 8-1)
South Columbus (12-2, 8-1)
Red Springs (9-4, 6-3)
St. Pauls (5-7, 5-4)
Fairmont (5-6, 4-5)
South Robeson (3-9, 3-6)
West Bladen (4-7, 2-7)
East Columbus (1-10, 1-8)
West Columbus (0-11, 0-9)