Pam Pack ready to take next step

Published 6:20 pm Friday, August 22, 2008

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
Pleased? Somewhat. Satisfied? Far from it.
That’s the feeling one gets when talking with Pam Pack head coach Sport Sawyer about Washington’s football success in recent years. The fifth-year head coach, whose team kicks off the 2008 season tonight at home against North Pitt, led the Pam Pack to an 8-4 record last year. The eight wins were the most by a Pam Pack team since the 1999 squad went 11-2.
However, Sawyer was disappointed his team couldn’t get over its playoff hump, falling 42-41 in double-overtime to South Granville. Washington hasn’t won a playoff game since 1999, a 51-7 first-round victory over Eden Morehead.
If the Pack is to have success this year, it will have to do so without star running back Travis Daniels, who ran for 2,290 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago. Daniels is now a running back at UNC-Pembroke.
Another huge loss comes at wingback and cornerback. Gone is Jamont Jones, who is now playing at Lenoir-Rhyne. As a senior, Jones led the Pack with seven interceptions. He was also key to Washington’s success on offense, finishing with team-bests of 40 receptions, 622 yards and 10 touchdowns.
While those are big losses, Sawyer feels comfortable with the skill people he has this year.
A huge plus for the Pack is the return of quarterback Austin Thompson. The senior, a WDN All-Area First Team selection a year ago, will begin his third year as the Washington signal-caller.
Thompson completed 67 of 125 passes (53.6 percent) for 1,072 yards last year. He threw 17 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.
The mobile Thompson added 129 yards rushing and a pair of scores.
Thompson has a stable of talented receivers to get the ball to this year.
Lining up at receiver for the Pack this year will be Dakuan Spencer, Mike Moore and Mike Godley. Spencer turned in a nice sophomore campaign, finishing with 13 receptions for 171 yards and four touchdowns. Moore hauled in 18 passes for 332 yards and four scores. Godley had two receptions for 24 yards.
Lining up in the backfield behind Thompson will be Tony Turnage and Kashief Foreman, a freshman who will be wearing No. 21 — Daniels’ old number. Turnage, who had 110 yards on 18 carries last year, looks to be the primary running back.
Doing the blocking for the backs, and protecting Thompson in the pocket, will be right tackle Gil Broadway, right guard Jonnie Smallwood, center Marquin Hill, left guard Sharon Langley and left tackle Kevin Chapman, who transferred from Northside High School.
The Pack defense, which surrendered just 156 points last year, looks to be just as strong, if not stronger, this year despite the graduation of 2007 leading-tackler Cody Cunningham (now playing at North Carolina Wesleyan).
Leading the way for the Pack will be senior defensive end Chase Tripp, who had 10 quarterback sacks and over 100 tackles as a junior.
Justin Meekins will line up at the other defensive end position. Sandwiched between Tripp and Meekins will be defensive linemen Xavier Ernuld and Cedrik Summers.
David Tyson, one of the strongest players in the Coastal Conference, lines up at middle linebacker. Playing outside linebacker will be Justin “Weasel” Moore and Darius Sneed.
Turnage, who had six interceptions last year, and William Ellegor will handle the cornerback spots.
Playing in the safety positions will be Spencer, who picked off five passes last year, and Melvin Spruill.
Meekins will once again handle the kicking and punting chores. As a junior, Meekins converted 45 of 54 PATS and averaged 35.9 yards per punt.
Turnage will be the Pack’s primary punt returner, while handling the kickoff return duties will be Spencer and Moore.
On the sideline, Sawyer will be assisted by Jon Blank (defensive coordinator), Joe Lawrence (defensive backs), Jerome Tyson (defensive line), John Moore (offensive line), Fritz Tanner (special teams and linebackers), Larry Walker (backs and receivers), Wayne Flint (backs and receivers) and Eric Peartree (backs and receivers). Dan Riggs (head junior varsity coach), Scott Bills and Robert Beach will also provide assistance.
The Pack will play seven of its 11 games at J.G. “Choppy” Wagner Stadium this year, something Sawyer sees as a plus.
The Pack opens its season tonight against the North Pitt Panthers. Washington owns a 4-3 record against the Panthers, which includes a 35-13 victory last year.
The Pack’s first road test will be Aug. 29 against Tarboro in the annual Victory Bell Bowl. The Vikings took a 25-21 win last year.
Washington returns home Sept. 5 to take on Beaufort County-rival Northside. The Pack posted a 40-8 victory a year ago.
Sawyer’s team, which has a bye date Sept. 12, closes out non-conference play Sept. 19 at home against Nash Central.
Washington begins conference action Sept. 26 at D.H. Conley, which is followed by another road test Oct. 3 against South Central.
The Pack plays four of its five final regular season games at home, starting with an Oct. 10 date with West Craven. The game will be homecoming for the Pack.
Washington plays host to J.H. Rose on Oct. 17 before visiting Class 4-AA defending state champion New Bern on Oct. 24. The Pack hasn’t beaten Rose or New Bern since the 1970 season.
This is the last year Washington will face the Rampants and Bears in conference play. After realignment next year, Jacksonville and White Oak replace Rose and New Bern in the conference.
The Pack welcomes Havelock into town on Oct. 31, which will be Walk of Fame night, before closing out the regular season Nov. 7 at home against West Carteret.
While Washington’s first two games, including today’s season opener, kick off at 7:30 p.m., all other games will begin at 7 p.m.
Admission to games is $7.
Starters by position
QB – Austin Thompson
RB – Tony Turnage
RB – Kashief Foreman
WR – Dakuan Spencer
WR – Mike Moore
WR – Mike Godley
OL – Gil Broadway RT
OL – Jonnie Smallwood RG
OL – Marquin Hill C
OL – Sharon Langley LG
OL – Kevin Chapman LT
DE – Chase Tripp
DL – Xavier Ernuld
DL – Cedrik Summers
DE – Justin Meekins
LB – Justin Moore
LB – David Tyson
LB – Darius Sneed
CB – William Ellegor
CB – Tony Turnage
S – Dakuan Spencer
S – Melvin Spruill
Special Teams
K – Justin Meekins
P – Justin Meekins
PR – Tony Turnage
KR – Mike Moore, Dakuan Spencer