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Pam Pack priming for playoffs

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
As Sport Sawyer enters his fourth year as head coach of the Washington Pam Pack, he’s pleased with the team’s progress but he’s far from satisfied.
That won’t happen unless the Pack can do something it hasn’t done since 1999 — win a playoff game. Washington, which lost in the first round in each of Sawyer’s first three seasons as head coach, hasn’t tasted a playoff victory since a 51-7 win over Eden Morehead eight seasons ago.
Sawyer, 16-20 overall and 11-11 in conference play in three years, led the Pack to a 6-6 record last year. That included a 4-3 slate in Coastal Conference action, good enough to finish in a three-way tie with South Central and West Craven for third overall, and first among the 3-A teams in the split 4-A/3-A conference.
PACK PICKED THIRD
Washington was picked to finish third overall, and first among the 3-A teams, in a recent coaches’ meeting. J.H. Rose, which received five first-place votes and 41 points, was picked to win the conference. Fellow 4-A member New Bern, which got a pair of first-place votes and tallied 38 points, was picked to finish second. Washington (38) was third, followed by West Craven (27), Havelock (19), South Central (19), D.H. Conley (14) and West Carteret (7).
Sawyer is setting some big goals for his squad.
SEASON IN REVIEW
Washington opens the season Friday at North Pitt. The Pack’s first home game is Aug. 24 against Tarboro in the annual Victory Bell Bowl. After playing at Beaufort County rival Northside Aug. 31, the Pack ends nonconference play Sept. 14 at home against Nash Central. Washington has a bye week Sept. 7.
Washington kicks off Coastal Conference action Sept. 21 at home against D.H. Conley, which will be homecoming night for the Pack. Sawyer is expecting a tough grind in the conference slate, including a road contest Oct. 12 at J.H. Rose. The Rampants are starting a Walk of Fame and will hold their first Walk of Fame game that night against the Pam Pack.
Other key dates includes Washington’s own Walk of Fame game on Sept. 28 and a home battle against the Bears on Oct. 19.
NEW-LOOK OFFENSE
Looking to be more explosive on offense this year, the Pack has implemented a spread offense. With talented senior running back Travis Daniels, who has rushed for over 2,800 yards the last two years, and Reggie Bush-like Jamont Jones in the backfield, along with a handful of other weapons, Sawyer is smiling about the possibilities.
Sophomore quarterback Austin Thompson will start with one year of experience under his belt. Behind him in the backfield will be Daniels and Jones. Players like Roray Razor, Daquan Spencer and C.J. Jefferson could also help the Pack put some points on the board.
DOMINANT DEFENSE
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jon Blank is hoping for a big year.
Middle linebacker Cody Cunningham, who switched from defensive end to middle linebacker, will be a leader and has the chance to have a huge season.
Blank has seven returning starters on defense, including three in the secondary and three on the line. The Pack’s linebackers are converted defensive backs.
Blank is looking for solid seasons from Cunningham, Chase Tripp at strong side defensive end, Jamont Jones at cornerback, David Tyson at defensive tackle and C.J. Jefferson at cornerback.
While the Pack defense, and the rest of the teams in the conference, won’t have to put up with the likes of former J.H. Rose star Jonathan Williams, who is now playing at East Carolina, or former South Central standout Tyrell Worthington, who signed a contract to play professional baseball, Blank said that could make defending those teams all the more difficult.
On special teams, Justin Meekins will play a key role as the kicker and punter. Players like Daniels, Jones and Razor will likely be the kick and punt returners.
A HELPING HAND
Sawyer said he’s got a strong nucleus of coaches working hard trying to lead the Pack far into the playoffs.
Sawyer is hoping the Pam Pack faithful will have fun watching his team.
Washington Pam Pack
Coastal Conference
Coach: Sport Sawyer
2006 record: 6-6
Aug. 17 — at North Pitt
Aug. 24 — TARBORO
Aug. 31 — at Northside
Sept. 7 — Bye
Sept. 14 — NASH CENTRAL
Sept. 21 — D.H. CONLEY
Sept. 28 — SOUTH CENTRAL
Oct. 5 — at West Craven
Oct. 12 — at J.H. Rose
Oct. 19 — NEW BERN
Oct. 26 — at Havelock
Nov. 2 — at West Carteret
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