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Former West Craven coach now with rivals
Is new offensive coordinator at New Bern
VANCEBORO — In 31 seasons as head football coach of West Craven High School, Clay Jordan collected more than 250 victories, won 16 conference championships, made 19 playoff appearances and three trips to the 3-A Eastern Regional Finals.
Jordan, who has West Craven’s football stadium named after him, is an icon throughout the town of Vanceboro.
He was starting quarterback for West Craven, where he graduated in 1974. Four years later, in 1978, Jordan was named the head coach of the Eagles. He helped 51 athletes turn into college football players.
After guiding the Eagles to a 15-1 record and a trip to the state championship game following the 2008 season, Jordan retired and handed the reigns over to his protégé, Kevin Yost.
For the Eagles’ faithful, it’s difficult to imagine Jordan wearing any other colors than the red, white and blue.
But the nightmare has turned into fruition for West Craven fans. Jordan will be the offensive coordinator for county rival New Bern this season.
Jordan was in Vanceboro Wednesday with the Bears in a 7-on-7 passing league with West Craven, Eastern Wayne, Riverside and Ayden-Grifton.
“It’s painful. It’s pretty awkward, but we still love him,” said Yost, who enters his second season as coach of West Craven. “(Clay) did a lot for this school. He made a decision and he thought that was going to be best for him. I support him.”
Yost was an assistant coach under Jordan in the 2008 season before taking complete control prior to the 2009 campaign. The Eagles went 10-3 in Yost’s first season.
But with some scrutiny surrounding Jordan’s decision, Yost is adamant that he still remains close with his mentor.
“He really built me into being a head coach and I’m thankful for him,” Yost said. “He knows a ton of football, so he is someone who is really special to me. We are still friends and we talk all the time. He’s been nothing but help for me.”
According to a New Bern source, one reason Jordan returned to the sidelines is his desire for the game of football. Another aspect is that he didn’t want to be an assistant at West Craven and overshadow Yost.
According to a West Craven source, everyone he’s talked to is against Jordan’s decision.
West Craven assistant coach Garrick Suggs, who played his final year for the Eagles in 1999, isn’t upset with his former coach moving to the opposite side of the county.
“It’s going to be fun. I know a lot of people have different feelings, but him and I are still very close, so it doesn’t bother me. It’s not going to affect our relationship,” he said.
With less than a month until the first day of practice, Jordan has made an immediate impact for New Bern, especially for rising sophomore Josh Taylor, who started the final four games at quarterback for the Bears last season.
“He’s been great. We’ve been working on my throwing a lot and my arm motion,” said Taylor, who threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns in 2009. “My arm’s gotten a lot stronger. (Coach Jordan) has been putting in his plays and with the talent we have on offense, it should be pretty exciting.”
With Jordan calling plays on offense, the Bears are expected to run the spread offense — a formation Jordan ran with success at West Craven.
The new-style of offense impresses New Bern’s versitile standout Jerrell Armstrong, who plans on playing some quarterback, wide receiver and running back in Jordan’s system. Along with the multi-talented Tyrell Lindsey, the Bears hope to have an explosive offense.
“Now we really get to use our speed. Last year, we were running a more power-type offense,” said Armstrong, who is being looked at by Division I colleges like ECU, Duke, Wake Forest, UNC and South Carolina. “(Coach Jordan) is spreading the field out, so I really like that. This is the most fun I’ve had here. I really like this offense.”
According to New Bern’s defensive coordinator Steve ‘Doc’ Lovitt, Jordan’s hiring will even make his defense that much stronger just by competing against the offense every day in practice.
“When you bring somebody in like Coach Jordan, he’s done everything you can do in the game and knows the ins and outs of coaching, it’s going to do nothing but help you,” he said. “We are going to be better defensively because we have to face his offense everyday in practice.”
While West Craven people are hesistant to talk about Jordan, the New Bern coaching staff is ecstatic about the possibilites he will bring to the Bears, who were just 5-6 last season.
Wide receivers coach Jeremy McDaniel recalls Jordan taking him to the East-West All-Star game in Greensboro during his senior season of high school.
“He wanted to come and be a Bear. We are welcoming him with open arms,” said McDaniel, who was a standout wide receiver for the Bears from 2001 to 2004. “I’m taking in everything I can take in. (Jordan) likes to throw the ball. He’s going to be a great addition to the New Bern High School football team.”
Neither team will have to wait long until another chapter of the bitter rivalry unfolds. West Craven travels to New Bern in the second game of the season on Aug. 27. New Bern escaped with a 19-13 win over the Eagles last season at Clay Jordan Stadium in Vanceboro.
“I think it even heightens it (the rivalry),” Yost said. “Our kids are going to want to beat New Bern bad. I know some people harbor some feelings against him and his decision, but I am not. I think our kids understand this is football and it’s kind of a business and he’s going to do what’s best for his family.”