Against my better judgement, I’m going to review my preseason high school football predictions this week.

It wasn’t a good year.

Let’s start with the best of the bunch.

I had Croatan going 8-3, and the Cougars upped that mark by one win in going 9-2 to tie the school record for the best regular season win total.

This wasn’t a difficult prediction.

Croatan had the most experience and most favorable schedule of the three county teams, so it made sense it would have the best season.

I gave the Cougars wins over Swansboro, White Oak, Lejeune, Dixon, Trask, Richlands, Pender and East Carteret and losses to Pamlico, West Carteret, Southwest Onslow.

Three of those games went the other way. Croatan lost to Swansboro but defeated Pamlico and West Carteret.

Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, it’s been a great year for the Highway 24 club, and next year should be just as good, if not better.

The Cougars bring back 15 starters, including eight on defense and seven on offense, and their JV team looked promising this year, going 6-2.

I was off by two games for West Carteret.

I had the Patriots going 6-5, and they went 4-7.

This was a tough one.

You could count on one hand the number of returning starters for the Patriots coming into this season.

I had West beating East Carteret, West Craven, Farmville Central, Croatan, White Oak and Swansboro, while losing to New Hanover, D.H. Conley, Havelock, Jacksonville and Northside-Jacksonville.

I was right on each of the losses but missed on the Patriots’ victories over West Craven and Croatan.

To quote Bob Uecker, I was “just a bit outside” on that West Craven pick. The Eagles demolished the Patriots 54-0. The Croatan contest was much closer with the Cougars winning 26-20.

West should be better next season, at least by a game or two.

The JV team was superb, going 8-2, and one of its feeder programs, Newport Middle School, took the Crystal Coast Athletic Conference championship game with a 30-0 win over Beaufort-Down East.

I was totally off on East Carteret.

I had the Mariners going 6-5, but they went 3-8.

East had an alarming lack of depth but looked pretty good at times this season … for what looked like a JV team. More than half of the team’s roster were underclassmen, including its freshman quarterback and sophomore running back.

I had the Mariners beating North Lenoir, Swansboro, Pender, Trask, Lejeune and Dixon, while losing to West Craven, West Carteret, Croatan, Southwest Onslow, Richlands.

Instead, they fell to North Lenoir, Swansboro and Dixon in surprisingly good seasons for those squads.

North Lenoir tied its single-season record for wins by going 8-3. The Hawks went 0-11 last year. Swansboro went 6-5 after going 3-6 in 2018, and Dixon followed three straight two-win seasons by going 6-5 to finish above .500 for the first time since 2012.

(Send comments or questions to jj@thenewstimes.com or follow him on Twitter @jjsmithccnt.)

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