Beaufort County football|Season previews on Washington, Southside, Northside

Published 1:20 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

Sports Editor

Pam Pack looks to keep building
Washington ended a decade-long drought of not winning a playoff game last year. Sixth-year Pam Pack coach Sport Sawyer is hoping his team can continue building and take it to an even higher level in the 2009 season.
“I think we can do very well,” said Sawyer, 32-29 over his first five seasons with the Pack. “It just depends on how mentally strong we are.”
Sawyer, who will coach in the 2010 NCCA East-West All-Star football game, and his Pack open the season tonight at home against North Pitt. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Sawyer, who guided his team to an 8-5 record last year, is hoping for a strong start.
“The guys are working hard and the coaches are working hard,” Sawyer said. “We have a lot of new people and a lot of positions to fill. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re making strides to get there.”
Sawyer is hoping J.G. “Choppy” Wagner Stadium will be full throughout the season.
“The fans are very important,” Sawyer said. “As a player, when you look up into the stands and see people cheering for you, it means a little something extra.
“I think the cheerleaders do a super job. I’m hoping Wagner Stadium will be full and that the fans come out and support us.”
Sawyer has had to fill some holes off last year’s squad, which posted a 34-25 win over Havelock in the first round of the state playoffs. It was Washington’s first playoff win since 1999.
The Pack will have to replace three-year starter Austin Thompson, a two-time WDN First Team quarterback and last year’s WDN Male Athlete of the Year. Thompson threw for over 1,800 yards and 19 touchdown passes his senior season. Thompson also ran for 265 yards and five more scores.
Other key players lost on the offensive side of the ball are standout lineman Gil Broadway (now playing at Western Carolina), wide receivers Mike Moore (38 catches for 444 yards and five scores) and Mike Godley (25 catches for 371 yards and three scores).
Defensively, the Pack will have to replace the likes of Chase Tripp (now playing at Winston-Salem State), Xeavier Ernul and David Tyson, who all racked up numerous tackles.
Also, Justin Meekins, who handled the kicking and punting chores for the Pack the last three years, is gone.
“We still have to find some identity,” Sawyer said. “Really, when you do that, it shows up in games. We’ve got some guys that are stepping up and we’ll see (tonight) who steps up.”
Sophomore Trey Harris will get the nod at quarterback for Washington.
“It looks like with each practice, Trey is getting more and more mature,” Sawyer said. “Quarterback is a tough position to play. He’s young, but I like the progress he’s making.”
Key weapons like Dakuan Spencer and Tony Turnage should help smooth the transition Harris will be making from junior varsity to varsity.
Spencer, a dynamic, do-it-all athlete, caught 39 passes for 609 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. The senior also ran for 486 yards and five touchdowns.
“(Dakuan) is a talented young man,” Sawyer said. “When he puts his mind to it, he can do a lot of things. We’re looking for him to be a force on the offensive side and also on the defensive side. We’re looking for big things out of him, as well as Tony Turnage.”
Turnage, a gritty wingback, ran for 711 yards and four scores a year ago. He also had 24 receptions for 347 yards and three scores.
Harris will line up at quarterback. Starting at the skill positions will be Spencer (halfback), Turner (wingback), Lindsey Harris (halfback), William Ellegor (wingback) and James Hamblin (receiver).
The offensive line consists of center Marquin Hill, right guard Kevin Chapman, right tackle Forrest Latham, left guard Devante Gonzalez and left tackle Phillip Hortan.
Spencer and Turnage are also key components on the defensive side of the ball. Led by fiery defensive coordinator Jon Blank, the defensive unit has been stingy the past few seasons. Sawyer is expecting more of the same this season.
“I think defense will be a strength this year,” Sawyer said. “The defensive line (Brandon Lee, Marquin Hill, Amiar Johnson and Raphael Gibbs) is strong. Our linebackers (Ronnie Woolard, Cole Hartley, Donshe Gray and Josh Brown) are solid.”
Spencer and Harris are safeties for the Pack, while Turnage and Ellegor are defensive backs.
Hartley is doubtful for tonight’s opener, but Sawyer is hoping to have his senior middle linebacker back by Week 3.
Johnny Broadway will handle the kicking duties for Washington, while Hatteras Brooks will be the punter.
“Those guys have stepped up and done a nice job,” Sawyer said. “We’re looking for them to do well this year.”
Assisting Sawyer this season are Blank, Wayne Flint, Larry Walker, Steve Flowers, Marvin Frazier, Jerome Tyson, Joe Lawrence, Scott Dills and Eric Peartree.
“The coaches always do a great job,” Sawyer said. “Coach Blank is always well prepared and he gets after it on Friday night. Wayne Flint and Larry Walker help us out on offense and they do a super job. Marvin Frazier, a new guy, is working with the offensive line.
“Jerome Tyson is a great Pam Pack supporter and he does the defensive line. Steve Flowers does the secondary, and we have Eric Peartree helping out and Scott Dills is the head JV coach. We have a great group of guys coaching.”
Seahawks hoping for more success
CHOCOWINITY — David Hines always seems to be in a positive mood. If that rubs off on his players, the Southside Seahawks could have a pretty special season.
The Seahawks, 1-10 last year, snapped a 21-game losing streak in last year’s regular season finale. Southside posted an emotional 34-33 win over rival Northside in the annual Anchor Bowl.
“I think we turned some minds around,” Southside wide receiver Willie Ruffin said about the win. “Nobody thought we could do it, but we did it. We were able to overcome adversity.”
The Seahawks are hoping that momentum can carry over into this season. Southside opens the season tonight at home against North Duplin.
“I think the hopes are high,” Hines said. “The coaching staff really believes in what we’re doing, and the kids believe in what we’re doing. I think their expectations have actually risen.
“It’s too early to say, ‘well, I think we can win six, seven or 10 ballgames,’ but our expectations are higher coming off the win last year. Yeah, it was one, but that one win has given us a new attitude. I think that’s what we needed. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Sophomore Terrill Moore will be expected to handle a large load for the Seahawks this year. So far, Hines has been impressed with his young quarterback.
“He’s a special athlete,” Hines said. “We’re going to be young, but we’re looking for special things out of our skill players.”
Hines will be able to platoon Derek Cannon, Marques O’Neal, Lonnie Williams, Anthony Goff and Julian Brown in backfield. Ruffin and Curtis Meyers will be expected to step up in the receiver slots.
Ruffin believes his team has a chance for a successful season.
“I want to win more games than we’ve been winning,” Ruffin said. “If we stay together as a team, we should be successful.”
The Seahawks haven’t had a winning season since 2006 (7-5).
Panthers looking for turnaround
YEATESVILLE — Northside coach Keith Boyd has enjoyed watching his football players get after it during the preseason.
“From the freshman to the seniors, they are enthusiastic,” Boyd said. “They act like they want to be here.
“They’re coachable and that’s all we can ask. It doesn’t matter if you’re 95 pounds or 295, as long as you do that, you can be a good player.”
The Panthers had a solid showing in last weekend’s football jamboree at Southside High School. While Boyd, entering his fourth year as the Panthers’ coach, was pleased with the scrimmage, he said his players can’t be satisfied.
“We can’t get happy with our performance,” Boyd said. “We have to take this and build on it, and keep moving forward.”
Northside, 2-9 a year ago, gets its first test tonight when the Panthers play host to the Creswell Tigers.
Quarterback Isaiah McCullor, who has a big arm and can run with the ball, will lead the Panthers offensively.
“We are going to throw the ball. We have a quarterback with a real good arm,” Boyd said. “We are still going to run our options, but we have gone away from the wings and will use a tight end this year. We’ll use some three-wide sets and mix it up a little.”
Boyd is expecting players like Damont Harvey and Zeke Williams to also shine on the offensive side of the ball.
Seth Boyd, a 6-5, 280-pound senior, will anchor the offensive and defensive line.
The big man, named to the 2009 Preseason All-State team, will be looked upon as one of the leaders for the Panthers this season.
Northside will be looking for its first winning season since 2004 (12-3).