Nov 282012
 

 

Owner Matt Scully stands behind the counter of his cafe, The Scullery, in downtown Greenville. The Scullery was one of two local businesses that won the Small Business Plan Competition last year. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

By Wesley Brown

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When Matt and Erin Scully sought a loan last year to open a coffee shop downtown, the couple was turned away by about half a dozen banks.

They had little startup funding, and their dream of owning a café called The Scullery simmered, until the couple learned about the city’s Small Business Plan Competition.

After working with ECU’s Small Business and Technology Development Center to model a vision statement for the restaurant, the Scullys were approved for a grant through the four-year-old program designed by the city to redevelop downtown and west Greenville.

Still frustrated by tight-fisted bank lending policies, 17 entrepreneurs have won money through the lending contest that twice a year awards between $15,000 and $30,000 to as many as four companies.

Fifteen remain open today.

A new grant cycle for the program starts Saturday, when applications are due, with the hope that increased excitement will help preserve the competition, which at is at the mercy of a dwindling supply of money allocated for the contest in a low-interest bond referendum passed in 2004.

“It was our only source of funding when we opened,” Matt Scully said, while standing behind the counter of The Scullery on Tuesday afternoon, a steady stream of customers chatting in the background.

“It really was essential to our success.”

Scully said that without the winnings, he and his wife would not have been able to pay for the deposit, rent and equipment needed for their location at the corner of Evans and Fifth streets.

Niki Jones, program administrator for the Small Business Plan Competition, said each semester as many as 10 entrepreneurs, like the Scullys, apply for the program’s grant funding.

Jones said Tuesday the Greenville Community Development Department is working to secure a grant and is hopeful it can increase funding for a program that last year helped the city win the state Governor’s Award for being a “small business innovator.”

“Small business is tough in general and for those who have expanded their business, this program has helped them open a new avenue of revenue,” Jones said. “For those who have started a new business, I am not sure they could have done it without this fund.”

Kristie Esposito King could have made it without the program’s help in 2009, but her business would not be where it is today.

The vaulted ceilings, exposed brick and open space of the Brody Building’s upstairs suite on Evans Street perfectly matched the setting King imagined for appogee, a “unique and focused” business King co-founded to sell the cutting-edge products of Apple.

“It was more expensive than the cookie-cutter storefronts of strip malls, but it was very Apple-esque and Apple is all about aesthetics,” King said.

Since being awarded competition funding in 2010, the software specialist landed the suite downtown, added two full-time employees and expanded its clientele.

“It’s been great,” King said. “The program is at the top of our list and one we always mention when speaking with aspiring entrepreneurs in the area.”

For people wishing to enter the contest, all entries must be a for-profit business whose tangible net worth is not in excess of $7.5 million and whose average net income after federal income taxes is not in excess of $2.5 million, according to contest rules.

Entries will be required to provide profit/loss statements, federal income tax statements and other financial documents as necessary to demonstrate compliance with small business and other eligibility requirements.

All applications will receive an initial review, and a winner will be named by the Greenville Redevelopment Commission after all entries are scored on business experience, credit history, revenue projections, employee income and commercial equity.

Awards typically are made within 90 days of submission, Jones said.

Business plans must be designed in collaboration with one of the four counselors approved by the city: SCORE, Exceed Inc., ECU’s Small Business and Technology Development Center and Pitt Community College’s Small Business Center.

“It’s a great program” Scully said. “The process forces you to create a strong business plan, which is crucial for growth. We had one of our best falls, and because of this program the community is embracing a revitalization culture in Greenville.”

 

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

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Nov 282012
 

By Michael Abramowitz

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pitt County’s unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in October, down from 9.3 in September and 10.4 in August, the N.C. Department of Commerce reported Tuesday.

The October not-seasonally adjusted rate is a drop of one-tenth of a percentage point from September’s rate and 1.3 percentage points lower than the 10.5 rate of October 2011, state and federal figures indicated.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in October, down from 10.3 last year. Unemployment rates decreased in 76 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in October, increased in 16 and were unchanged in eight, commerce department officials said. When compared to the same month last year, unemployment rates declined in 98 counties. North Carolina had 39 counties that were at or below the state’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 8.8 percent. Unemployment rates decreased in all 14 of the state’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

The number of workers employed (not seasonally adjusted) increased in October by 51,810 to 4,343,583. Those unemployed fell 5,314 to 416,631.

Since October 2011, the number of workers unemployed decreased 64,511, and those employed increased 142,497.

When adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in factors that occur at particular times of the year, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Pitt County was 9.7 percent, as reported by Jim Kleckley of the East Carolina University Bureau of Business Research. Seasonal factors include weather, college graduation and holidays.

The adjustment at this time of year is upward because of the rise in temporary employment for the holiday shopping season, he said.

Steady but small downward changes in the unemployment rate indicate a slowly improving situation since the Great Recession of 2009, Kleckley said. Employers and investors want to get busy building back the economy but are seeking signs of stability from the government, the economist said.

“One bit of uncertainty was taken care of on Election Day, but more remains because we don’t know how the budget and national debt problem will be addressed in Washington, D.C.,” Kleckley said in reference to the approaching so-called fiscal cliff. “Are we going to cut back services, raise taxes or do both? What Congress does will have a big impact on the national economy and, in turn, on the local economy.

“Everybody knows something needs to be done, but it’s still political,” he said.

Currituck County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in October at 5.5 percent, and Scotland County had the highest unemployment rate at 15.7 percent.

Non-seasonally adjusted rates in other nearby counties during October include: Beaufort at 10 percent, down from 10.4 percent in September; Carteret at 7.6, down from 7.7; Craven at 9.2, down from 9.4; Edgecombe at 13.8, up from 13.7; Greene at 9.2, unchanged; Lenoir at 9.4, down from 9.7; Martin at 10.7, down from 11.2; Nash at 10.5, down from 11.1; and Wayne 8.4, down from 8.7.

Non-seasonally adjusted rates for October in other selected counties include: Buncombe at 6.7 percent, down from 7.1 in September; Cumberland at 9.4, down from 9.7; Forsyth at 8.2, down from 8.7; Mecklenburg at 8.7, down from 9.1; and New Hanover at 8.5, down from 8.8.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.

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Nov 282012
 
BY LAURA OLENIACZ
loleniacz@heraldsun.com; 919-419-6636

DURHAM – Durham County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent in October, down by two-tenths of a percentage point from the rate in September, and down 1.4 percentage points from the rate in October last year.

That’s according to data from the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Labor Security that were seasonally adjusted by the East Carolina University Bureau of Business Research. The data were released Tuesday.

“I think what you are seeing is a gradual improvement in the economy – particularly over the last year,” said James Kleckley, director of the ECU Bureau of Business Research, in an email message.

Durham County had the ninth lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of any of the state’s 100 counties, according to the ECU Bureau of Business Research.

Durham County saw an employment gain of 999 workers from September to October, for a total of 135,081 employed workers in the month. The year-over-year gain was 5,254.

Meanwhile, the county saw a month-over-month unemployment drop of 276 for a total of 10,798 workers in October. The county saw a year-over-year drop in the unemployed of 1,734.

“You would expect – and hope – the employment increases to be relatively larger than the drop in the unemployment rolls,” Kleckley said. “Not only are you getting people back to work, but you are also creating new jobs.”

Orange County, with a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6 percent, had the lowest rate of the state’s counties, according to ECU Bureau of Business Research data. Chatham County, with a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, was No. 3 on the list. Person was No. 54, with a rate of 10.1 percent.

The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, which includes Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties, had a seasonally adjusted rate of 7.1 percent in October, down from 7.3 percent in September, and down from 8.6 percent in October last year.

Those rates are seasonally adjusted, which means they account for seasonal fluctuations in employment. Kleckley said a large reason that there was a difference between the seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted data in October may have been because of the beginning of holiday hiring by retail businesses in the month.

The metro area had a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 6.7 percent rate in October, compared to 7 percent in September. The non-seasonally adjusted rate for September was revised upward from 6.9 percent to 7 percent.

Larry Parker, acting public information officer for the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Division of Employment Security, said the rates are revised each month.

Read more: The Herald-Sun – Durham County unemployment down in October

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Nov 272012
 

 

Ronaldo Carlos Ramirez, 7, smiles with Brenda Flores, 10, as they sit in a waiting room with their mothers, Martha Ramirez, left, and Rosa Flores at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Monday. Both children recently had surgery for congenital heart defects at the institute. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)

Ronaldo Carlos Ramirez, 7, smiles with Brenda Flores, 10, as they sit in a waiting room with their mothers, Martha Ramirez, left, and Rosa Flores at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Monday. Both children recently had surgery for congenital heart defects at the institute. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)

By Katherine Ayers

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Most children take running, playing outside and attending school for granted.

But 10-year-old Brenda Flores and 7-year-old Ronaldo Ramirez didn’t have those options until the beginning of November.

Both children were born with heart defects in Honduras, but earlier this month those defects were fixed thanks to the Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project and a team of doctors and community members in Greenville.

The children each had a hole in the bottom of his or her heart and a blockage that restricted blood flow from the heart to the lungs, according to Dr. Charlie Sang Jr., pediatric cardiology section head at the East Carolina University Heart Institute. Both conditions led to decreased oxygen supply to their bodies which left them chronically tired, delayed their growth and would have ultimately shortened their lives.

“There’s no care for their conditions in Honduras,” Sang said. “To be able to provide free care and have the local community embrace them, it’s a no-brainer.”

Speaking through a translator Monday, Brenda’s mother talked about the change she has seen in her daughter since they arrived to Greenville. Rosa Flores said Brenda is more outgoing and energetic and no longer needs the stroller she had been using because she wasn’t strong enough to walk on her own.

Brenda also will be able to attend school regularly and play with her brothers and sisters.

Ronaldo’s mother, Martha Ramirez, said she remembered her son turning blue about 15 days after he was born. She took him to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with the heart defect. Now Ramirez said Ronaldo is an active little boy and steadily has been gaining weight.

In Honduras, the children were being treated by a doctor with ties to the Samaritan’s Purse organization. The doctor placed each child on a waiting list to receive the surgery. Brenda had been on the list about a year and Ronaldo about three.

Once the children were accepted, the organization took care of the cost of the surgeries — between $60,000 and $80,000 by Sang’s estimate — and airfare for the children, one parent each and a translator.

Samaritan’s Purse also reached out to Landmark Baptist Church in Greenville to find a host family for the time the group would be in the United States. That’s where Chuck and Judy Barber came in.

“The experience has been wonderful,” Chuck Barber said. “From the spoons on the noses to the painted fingernails, it’s been fun.”

A few years ago, a fire destroyed the Barbers’ home, but Chuck Barber said it was a blessing in disguise because it allowed them to add rooms to the second floor which in turn allowed them to have enough room to provide housing for families in need.

To help offset the cost of housing the families, local church and community members have been providing dinner each night.

The group arrived from Honduras in late October.

ECU physician Theodore Koutlas performed both surgeries at Vidant Medical Center in early November.

Sang said the children were discharged on Nov. 19 and now are ready to return home.

Back in Honduras, Brenda and Ronaldo periodically will be checked by a cardiologist paid by the Samaritan’s Purse, but Sang said the children should be able to live normal lives.

“Now they have unlimited potential,” he said.

Since 2001, ECU in partnership with the Samaritan’s Purse and Vidant, has provided heart surgeries for 30 children across the globe at a rate of about two a year.

Sang said ECU is the only heart center in North Carolina to provide a service like this on a regular basis.

Contact Katherine Ayers at kayers@reflector.com and 252-329-9567.

via The Daily Reflector.

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Nov 272012
 
Updated 1:56 p.m., Monday, November 26, 2012
NC Outer Banks: Dollars at risk as ocean advances
EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Nearly a month after Hurricane Sandy brushed it, the Outer Banks was still digging out and the mess has some on the barrier islands hoping that this is the time for officials to get serious about rebuilding the beaches.

The storm flattened protective dunes along segments of 70-mile-long Hatteras Island. A pair of nor’easters that followed kept waves lapping between the stilts that hold up homes. About a dozen were condemned and uninhabitable.

The only road on or off the island was impassible during the hours of high tide as the ocean rolled over the beach onto N.C. Highway 12 a few hundred yards away. The surf left a mirror image of itself in asphalt in one section of roadway, freezing the blacktop in a series of peaks and troughs.

 

NC Outer Banks: Dollars at risk as ocean advances

EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press
Updated 1:56 p.m., Monday, November 26, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Nearly a month after Hurricane Sandy brushed it, the Outer Banks was still digging out and the mess has some on the barrier islands hoping that this is the time for officials to get serious about rebuilding the beaches.

The storm flattened protective dunes along segments of 70-mile-long Hatteras Island. A pair of nor’easters that followed kept waves lapping between the stilts that hold up homes. About a dozen were condemned and uninhabitable.

The only road on or off the island was impassible during the hours of high tide as the ocean rolled over the beach onto N.C. Highway 12 a few hundred yards away. The surf left a mirror image of itself in asphalt in one section of roadway, freezing the blacktop in a series of peaks and troughs.

Thanks to an emergency ferry route, the island’s 4,500 year-round residents have been supplied with food, medications and rebuilding equipment since Sandy blew through the last weekend in October. But spots on the ships are limited, forcing island residents to fear that leaving for medical appointments could mean an hours-long wait returning home. Tourists waited in lines for hours to board ferries ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“It’s changed life for everybody that lives there,” said Susan Flythe, general manager of Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, which delivers power to all of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

The shutdowns and work-arounds come a year after Hurricane Irene sliced a new channel through the island, connecting the Atlantic to the sound on the island’s western side. The inlet shut off road access for six weeks until crews completed a steel bridge one-eighth of a mile long.

With calm conditions returning late last week after the second nor’easter — each packing winds of 30 mph or more for nearly a week — the state Department of Transportation is sizing up repair options. They include a temporary bridge over the wavy roadway or a 2.5-mile bridge hovering over the Pamlico Sound.

It also includes the contentious possibility of deploying dredges to claw up offshore sand and pump it onto the gaps in protective sand dunes, DOT technical services director Victor Barbour said Monday. DOT knows locals fear that without the protective barriers, damage to the highway and other property could multiply through the winter.

“We’re going to do all we can to get the (traffic) access as quickly as possible back,” Barbour said. “It’s been a bad season so far and we’re entering probably the peak of the nor’easter season, so we’re going to do all we can.”

Environmentalists often oppose so-called beach renourishment. They argue it’s a multi-million-dollar Band-Aid against nature’s will and that the projects kill sea creatures unlucky to be near the dredge intakes. They also say poorly planned projects can leave behind packed-down sand that prevents protected sea turtles from digging nests.

Refilling the gaps on the fastest eroding part of the state’s shoreline also would take a huge amount of sand that may stay only a few months, said East Carolina University research professor Stanley Riggs, who studies the state’s coastal geology.

“If there’s a bad place to put a road, it’s where Highway 12 is right now,” Riggs said. “Even if they fix that little piece they’re talking about right now, there’s another 20 miles down the banks that are just as vulnerable as this spot.”

Many island residents are just as adamant that replacing lost beachfront can’t be avoided any longer.

“Every storm that comes now seems to cause more damage than we had before. I know some people attribute that to global warming,” said Tim Morgan, a pharmacist who co-owns two independent drug stores. He lives on a Buxton street where the two homes closest to the ocean were condemned after Sandy.

“But we also don’t do anything to maintain the distance from the road to the breaking waves. We don’t do anything to pump that sand back in there,” he said.

To a taxpayer who would balk at again fixing a fragile road in perpetual need of repair, then paying more to beef up the beach, Morgan replies: “Unless they’re going to move everyone off this island, it will cost him less in the long run to maintain the beach than to maintain the road.”

Local officials are already working on developing an estimate for plugging holes in the natural dune dyke, Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said.

Sandy did little property damage along a 10-mile stretch of rebuilt beach in Nags Head, just north of Hatteras Island, completed for $37 million, he said. The county is paying the project’s cost from occupancy taxes collected from millions of tourists a year. A Hatteras Island project would likely cost more, but larger barriers would come from securing permission from state coastal regulators and the federal government, which runs a wildlife refuge and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore along most of the island, Outten said.

“We’ve got to do something,” Outten said. “We do need to fix it and we do need to have some sort of a permanent-access solution so that we’re not dealing with this every summer” when hurricanes threaten and tourist visits peak.

___

Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio

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Nov 272012
 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I have received several communications from concerned residents about the Tar River-University Neighborhood Association responding to the backers of the University Neighborhood Rental Incentive, who have begun a public relations campaign in advance of the legal action challenging the raised occupancy limit. They have portrayed TRUNA and other concerned citizens as politically motivated and unwilling to embrace change.

On the advice of our lawyers, TRUNA has not engaged in a back-and-forth discussion about the assertions made by the mayor and landlords’ group (University Neighborhood Association) in the articles of Nov. 4 (“Neighborhood effort has gaps to bridge”) and Nov. 10 (“Council tackles housing pains”), because it takes attention away from the central question of the illegality of the rezoning.

TRUNA and others have spent an enormous number of hours participating in planning sessions and task forces, and have made numerous suggestions (note for example the 2009 neighborhood plan on the city website), none of which have been pursued by the council. TRUNA is not a political organization. Our position on the UNRI is based on research into crime and rental rates, good city planning practices and the desire for a safe and attractive place for all the residents of TRUNA, including students, professionals, families and retirees.

The UNRI has been proposed as a potential model that can be applied to other neighborhoods, and if not legally challenged, will likely become the reality of how special interests achieve their goals in Greenville. We have chosen to oppose this precedent in court; please join our effort. For more information, go to the Save Our Neighborhoods Greenville page on Facebook.

ANDREW MOREHEAD

President, Tar River-University

Neighborhood Association

Greenville

via The Daily Reflector.

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Nov 272012
 

Published Mon, Nov 26, 2012 06:23 PM

O’Brien sacked

Should N.C. State University become a college football powerhouse – not just a winning program but among those regularly competing for national No. 1? The Wolfpack’s athletic director, Debbie Yow, implicitly raised that question Sunday by firing coach Tom O’Brien after a 7-5 season and by saying, in a comment relayed by a senior on the squad, that she wants a coach who can recruit “Alabama type talent.”

Hope springs eternal, but caution is in order when making a commitment to big-time college sports. An embarrassing example stares at State from nearby UNC-Chapel Hill, which boosted its football profile in 2006 by hiring noted coach Butch Davis but wound up vacating Davis-era victories, and on NCAA probation, in 2011.

In fairness, Yow is probably aiming more for a program such as Virginia Tech’s than for Alabama’s. She seeks a more “aggressive, assertive” recruiter who’ll lead State to ACC championships, possibly more. In the process, she wants to fill every Carter-Finley seat and to generate increased enthusiasm for the school.

It’s a course that many institutions – including N.C. State – have charted before, with mixed results. Meantime, there’s the matter of Tom O’Brien.

State owes its now former coach $1.2 million for the remainder of his contract, but that’s not all it owes him. O’Brien compiled, after all, a winning record (overall) in six seasons, with several bowl appearances. Equally if not more important, he oversaw what appears to have been an honest program, one that didn’t get in trouble with the NCAA. He’s said to have held his players to high standards, on the field and as students.

When things have gone badly – and they did, including a one-sided loss at home to Virginia this season – he didn’t whine or blame others. And it’s hard to imagine O’Brien cozying up to influential boosters, of which State has its share.

In a sense, he was an old-fashioned coach, emphasizing teaching and the development of solid players over the recruitment (with its attendant hazards) of high-rated stars.

That’s not the way forward, Yow declared Sunday, as is her right. The AD has a heavy responsibility to keep the crowds and the revenue coming. Yet worth noting is another firing that made news Sunday: at Auburn, coach Gene Chizik and his entire staff were dismissed two years after winning a national title and at a combined contract-buyout cost of $11 million. That’s really big time.

via O’Brien sacked – Editorials – NewsObserver.com.

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Nov 272012
 

 

East Carolina football players celebrate with offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, left, after last Friday's overtime victory against Marshall at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.  (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflecto

East Carolina football players celebrate with offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, left, after last Friday’s overtime victory against Marshall at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

By Nathan Summers

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The East Carolina football team will play either in the Dec. 22 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., or the Dec. 21 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the university confirmed in a statement on Monday.

As expected, the Pirates’ bowl destination will be determined by the outcome of Saturday’s Conference USA championship game between East Division champion UCF and West Division winner Tulsa.

If the Knights win the game, they will accept a bid to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and the 8-4 Pirates will trek to Tropicana Field, the home of baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, for the first time against an opponent yet to be named.

If UCF loses, the Knights will head to the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl and the Pirates will head to the New Orleans Bowl, also a first, where they’ll square off with the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns as announced on Monday.

The Pirates’ last bowl game was the 2010 Military Bowl, where they lost to Maryland, and they have qualified for bowls six of the last seven years.

Quick strike

One of the many turning points in East Carolina’s thrilling 65-59, double-overtime win against Marshall last week happened on the very first play of overtime.

Whereas the Pirates could not muster an OT touchdown when they needed one in last year’s season finale loss to the Thundering Herd, this time when extra time came ECU wasted no time.

On the first play from scrimmage in the first OT, quarterback Shane Carden rifled a touchdown pass to senior outside receiver Andrew Bodenheimer, immediately putting Marshall on its heels.

“We knew what play we were running and we’ve run it a few times,” Bodenheimer said of the TD, his second in as many games. “Shane told me to be ready for it because we had hit (slot receiver Justin) Hardy a bunch of times on the inside, and they had started creeping on him. The corner came down, I saw him bite a little bit and Shane made a great throw, put it where only I could catch it and I made a play.”

The big TO

Despite being blasted for 633 yards at the hands of Marshall, the ECU victory was nonetheless made possible by one big defensive play.

The game was deadlocked 59-59 heading into the second overtime and the Herd had the ball first. Sophomore defensive end Chrishon Rose got a hand on the ball carried by Marshall running back Essray Taliaferro, pried it loose and outside linebacker Derrell Johnson was there to cover it and give the ECU offense a first down on the 11-yard line.

“That’s something our coaches have prepared us for,” Johnson said of the game’s decisive play, which led to Carden’s winning rush TD. “You never know what play may happen, what may happen in a game or how long a game may last. Our coaches do a good job of keeping us prepared to play as long as we need to.”

Carden honored

Carden not only accounted for both OT touchdowns, but he also led a game-tying drive with less than two minutes to play to force overtime.

In all, he accounted for six touchdowns. That, combined with Carden’s career-high and school-record 439 pass yards in the game, earned the QB C-USA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

It was his third time being selected by the league for the honor.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com or 252-329-9595.

via The Daily Reflector.

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