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Conley working to remain as ECC leader

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C.J. Johnson practices with Ken Whitehurst at D.H. Conley on Thursday morning.


By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 4, 2018

An early morning at D.H Conley features the light mist of dew on fresh cut grass, birds chirping and the violent sounds of pads crashing together. 

The work ethic of the Vikings is a key piece as to why they remain one of the most feared teams in the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference. Their efforts led them to an 11-2 record a season ago, highlighted by a perfect 6-0 conference mark. But a year in which the Vikings went all-in for a state title behind the arm of senior quarterback Holton Ahlers was cut short after a second round playoff loss to Eastern Guilford, 44-29.

As they enter this season, the Vikings retain the mentality of earning a state championship despite major roster changes. Their staple of hard work is important to show to reach the heights they aim to achieve.

The new leader of an offense known for scoring in bunches is junior quarterback Nick Hamilton. While head coach Nate Conner would not officially announce Hamilton as the designated starter in the offseason, he has since Hamilton has first-string and placed his full trust in Hamilton’s arm and decision making.

“He is still learning every single day, but every day he is coming in to get better,” Conner said. 

The idea of improving every day has become a mantra for Conner just one week into preseason camp.

“What’s great about today is that you can take mistakes from yesterday and work on them. You can improve and get better,” Conner said when addressing his team at the beginning of Thursday’s practice. 

Hamilton won’t be alone on the field. Scattered throughout the team are familiar names for people in Greenville and beyond.

Of those names, the most prevalent and recognizable is wide receiver and cornerback CJ Johnson. The senior made his verbal commitment to East Carolina in the offseason, allowing for his full attention to be placed on making sure he and his teammates end up on top of the ECC standings.

DHC features a large and strong group of linemen on both sides of the ball. Among that group is Reed Chandler, who like Johnson recently secured his college decision when he made his commitment to join the Army football program following graduation.

“I think the key to our team is going to be the offensive and defensive lines,” Conner said. “Those guys are guys who I’d love for our fans to get to know, because if they are playing really well then we are going to be playing really well.”

As one of the top teams in Pitt County, Conley understands what it takes to build and maintain a winning program. The Vikes open their newest season Aug. 17 when they host Elizabeth City Northeastern in a rematch of the 2017 season opener that ended with Northeastern pulling out a 55-49, overtime win.

Contact Jake Keator at 252-329-9594 or jkeator@reflector.com and follow @JakeKeatorDR on twitter.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

High Schools

November 16, 2018

Two weeks ago, D.H. Conley drove the field looking to upset eventual 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference champion South Central, and they lost by one point.

On Friday night, the Vikings pulled off a miracle to escape Southern Alamance and advance to the second round of the 3-AA state playoffs.



November 16, 2018

Farmville Central head football coach Scott Gardner announced Friday that he has retired as the head coach of the Jaguars.

Gardner has spent 28 years in coaching, along with the majority of his life, in the Farmville community. 

“I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years,…


November 16, 2018

Ayden-Grifton will take on a familiar foe tonight in the first round of the 2-A East playoffs in Eastern Carolina Conference champion Kinston.

A-G head coach Paul Cornwell is all too familiar with postseason football, and he and his staff also have a good understanding as to how to better attack…


November 16, 2018

South Central entered this season looking to continue its climb to the top. 

Every year under head coach Andy Tew, the program has seen a rise in its win totals. After a 10-win season last year, the Falcons improved to perfection this year in a season that included wins over local rivals J.H.…


November 15, 2018

Four members of the D.H. Conley softball program signed their letters of intent on Thursday to play at the college level. 

Madison Bowers, Lexi and Alexis Phillips and Lexi Vincent are all signed to play softball at next level.

The group has been playing together since they were young, as they…


November 15, 2018

Nazir Monroe-Smith has seemingly done it all. A 1,000-yard rusher his junior year, Monroe-Smith has moved outside to become part of a threatening core of wide receivers in his final season. Preps beat writer Jake Keator spoke with Monroe-Smith about the Falcons’ undefeated season and how he…


November 13, 2018

Pitt County high school football teams finished a perfect 4-0 in the final week of the regular season, while Greene Central almost pulled out an upset of 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference champion Kinston.

Ayden-Grifton (7-4, 4-2) put up another strong outing, shutting out South Lenoir on the road,…

110318JHRfootball-1.jpg (1).jpg

November 10, 2018

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association released its brackets Saturday afternoon informing teams of their paths to a state title. 

Ayden-Grifton saw a change in its seeding just before the brackets were finalized. A-G started the day as a 14-seed, scheduled to play South Granville.…


November 10, 2018

The Greene Central Rams looked to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season against undefeated Kinston, and nearly did. In the end, however, one key play ended any thought of knocking off the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference leader.

Looking at a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line, it seemed…


November 09, 2018

The final week of the high school football regular season is here as local teams, including D.H. Conley (7-3, 5-1), use to make up previously postponed contests during hurricane season. 

The Vikings received some good news Tuesday night, as they learned they will be allowed to continue on into…

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