Running to glory

Published 6:18 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In this 2010 file photo, Washington runs the football during its victory over Northside. Tonight, the Pam Pack will play its 2011 home opener versus Tarboro and the running game figures to play a key role for both teams. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

Washington churned out nearly 400 rushing yards last Friday as it ran past North Pitt 47-28 to pick up a Week 1 victory. The Pam Pack might have to best that effort tonight when it plays its home opener against  two-time defending NCHSAA 2A state champions Tarboro at 7 p.m.
With Hurricane Irene looming, both teams decided to move the game up a day and play on Thursday night, despite the fact that Tarboro (Eastern Plains) opened up its season just this Monday. The Vikings, whose Friday night Week 1 game was pushed back because of poor weather, saw their 23-game winning streak snapped on Monday as it fell 38-28 to Nash Central, and will no-doubt be motivated for tonight’s clash with the Pam Pack despite having only two days rest.
Led by 6-1, 195-pound running back Todd Gurley, who is being recruited by several SEC and ACC powers, the Vikings have composed an astounding 45-3 record over the past three years heading into the 2011 season.
“They’re a good team, they got two state championships in a row and they started off the season losing 38-28 so I would imagine they got a little anger in their blood,” Washington coach Sport Sawyer said. “But that’s good, because we want to play and we want to play hard.”
The running game figures to play a large role in tonight’s contest as the Vikings will look to feature Gurley in its wing-T offense, while the Pam Pack will counter with guys like WR Keane Graham, RB Markel Spencer and QB Jimmy Williams rushing out of spread formations.
In Washington’s win over the Panthers, Graham, a senior, racked up 167 yards and one TD on 11 carries, while the freshman Spencer scored three times on nine attempts and rushed for 102 yards.
Junior quarterback Jimmy Williams proved his dual-threat status as he ran for 127 yards on 16 carries and connected on six of his seven pass attempts for 104 yards. At the end of the day, Williams ran for two scores and threw for one.
Washington’s rushing attack will be important tonight for two reasons: First, it must be used to take pressure off the passing game, but second, a good run game will keep the Tarboro offense off the field.
For that to happen Washington coach Sport Sawyer said his team must duplicate its blocking effort from a week ago.
“If our offensive line is able to control their line … and our receivers block the way they did against North Pitt then I think we can run,” Sawyer said. “If we’re pushed around then we might have to throw a little bit more … The game will be won by the O-line or D-line and whoever wins up front will win the ballgame.”
Washington will also need another staunch effort by its defense. Against North Pitt, MLB Jacquez Columbus and OLB Quashon Davis led the team in tackles as the defense gave up a mere two TDs. North Pitt’s other two scores came on special teams, which could also be a huge factor tonight as the Pack can not afford to give the Vikings any kind of edge or quick score.
Bottom line, Washington will have to put the pedal to the medal from the opening kickoff to the final buzzer.
“I want to see four quarters of pure fire,” Sawyer said. “I think at times the other night we might have eased up a little bit, and when we did we suffered offensively and defensively. Tonight I want us to keep the throttle down.”