ECU, NC Central prep for first ever meeting
Posted August 27, 2014
Greenville, N.C. — This Saturday’s season-opening matchup between East Carolina and North Carolina Central will feature a lot of firsts, all while originating years ago.
ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill and NC Central head coach Jerry Mack’s relationship goes back a ways – even though Mack is just 34 years old.
“I know Jerry – coach Mack. I’ve known him for a long time,” McNeill said. “Jerry was a really good player and then he moved his way up the ladder.”
“Our paths have crossed several times on the coaching circuit through conventions and over the course of years,” Mack said. “couch Ruffin has always been a great guy – a mentor so to speak that you can lean on.”
In terms of game planning for his Division I head coaching debut, it doesn’t get much more menacing for Mack and his defense than scheming to slow down ECU’s tandem of Shane Carden and Justin Hardy.
“They are dynamic. They have great chemistry those two,” Mack said. “Playing together for a long time, they are one of the best tandems in the country. We have to try and take advantage of some things that they do and ‘m sure they’re going to be looking at us.”
And in fact ECU is aware of what NC Central is bringing to Greenville.
“I know what coach Mack has. I would have the same type of guys if I was there,” McNeill said. “We respect them and their players.”
“They’re a physical group,” Carden said. “They get after it. Personnel-wise, just looking at last year’s games, we know we are going to get their best and we are going to be ready to play.”
Topping off all the mutual respect is a host of firsts. In addition to Mack’s first game at Central and the DI level, it is ECU’s first game in the American Athletic Conference and the first ever meeting between the two in-state schools.
Kickoff between ECU and NC Central at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is scheduled for 8 p.m.