D.H. Conley is finding its place among the top football programs east of I-95. Last year’s Vikings set a school record for wins in a season (11) and topped three teams – New Bern, J.H. Rose and Eastern Wayne – that have made it to the East final since 2014.
It’s been a big change since second-year coach Nathan Conner and others stepped onto campus in 2010 as members of former coach Brian Paschal’s staff. Conley has two 10-win seasons over the last three years after having just one in its full history.
Paschal was suspended and later removed from his post for a recruiting violation, leaving Conner to take over the program last season. The Vikings rolled to the Eastern Carolina 4A/3A league title and fell in the third round to fellow Greenville rival J.H. Rose.
“We take a lot of pride in last year. We got picked to finish third in the conference and went out and won the thing,” Conner said. “Who knows where we fall in that? We feel like we’ve had a great summer.”
Who are some players to know?
Quarterback Holton Ahlers is the headliners, but backs Duce Fuller, Noah Harper and C.J. Johnson give the Vikings tons of weapons. On defense, Caleb Moye and Jeremy Joyner lead the front four.
What makes Holton Ahlers so good?
Ahlers has the arm (2,457 yards passing) and the legs (1,142 yards rushing) to attract scholarship offers from East Carolina and N.C. State before his junior year.
“He’s not only a great football player but he has all the intangibles. He leads, he studies the game, he wants to make the people around him (better),” Conner said. “Any competive edge he can gain, he goes for it.”
Can the defense improve?
Last year’s Vikings gave up almost 32 points per game, but Conner is hoping the added year of experience for his defense will help the unit turn the corner this year.
“I think we got progressively better as the year went along, and that was encouraging,” he said.
More on the Vikings
Last year: 11-3 (6-0 Eastern Carolina 4A/3A), third round 4A playoffs
Five-year average: 9-4 (5-2)
Preseason N&O rank: No. 6
Coaches: Nathan Conner (HC/OC), Richard Bunch (DC/LBs), Joseph Daniels (Run game/OL), Matt Taylor (RBs/Head JV), Ken Whitehurst (DBs), Christian Carter (DL), John Wiley (OLBs), Trevor Spencer (WRs), James Bouie (OL), Walker Cummings (WRs/RBs), Ronald Williams (DL), Rufus Sutton (DL/LBs)
Contributors: Holton Ahlers (Jr., QB), Duce Fuller (Sr., RB/WR), Noah Harper (Sr., RB/WR), C.J. Johnson (So., RB/WR), Jeremy Joyner (Sr., DL), Caleb Moye (Sr., DL), Connor O’Brien (Sr., DB), Jaquavion Bridges (Jr., DB), Jalen Monroe (Sr., DB)
The main number: 46.9 – last year’s Conley team set a school record with 46.9 points per game.
Aug. 19 at Southeast Raleigh, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Ayden-Grifton, 7 p.m.
Sep. 2 at Washington, 7 p.m.
Sep. 9 vs. West Carteret, 7 p.m.
Sep. 16 at West Craven, 7 p.m.
Sep. 23 BYE
Sep. 30* at J.H. Rose, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7* at C.B. Aycock, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14* vs. Southern Wayne, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21* vs. Eastern Wayne, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* at New Bern, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* vs. South Central, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game.