Pack gets back to work

Published 8:07 pm Thursday, September 8, 2011

Washington quarterback Jimmy Williams (12) reads the defense as he decides whether or not to handoff to freshman running back Markel Spencer during the Pam Pack’s loss to Tarboro in Week 2. Tonight, Washington will host Riverside in its final non-conference game. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

Hurricane Irene sidelined the Washington football team last weekend, but the Pam Pack will look to storm back into action tonight against Riverside, an area team coached by WHS alum Asim McGill.
The last time Washington took the field it suffered tough 53-14 loss at the hands of reigning NCHSAA 2A champs Tarboro. After that, Irene wreaked havoc on the area forcing the Pam Pack (1-1, 3A Coastal Conference) to cancel its Week 3 game with Northside.
Riverside (1-2, 1A Four Rivers) kept its Week 3 plans intact, but pushed its annual Battle for the Paddle matchup with South Creek to Monday. The Knights won 33-6, but did not have too much time to enjoy it as they’re jumping back into action tonight when they travel to Washington.
“Any time you play two games in a week that’s going to be tough,” McGill said. “We were out of school last week then played on Monday night … then basically we have two days to try and game plan for Washington. But, another way to look at it is that at least we were able to play a game, it’s been a long time since Washington has played.”
For McGill, who played quarterback for Washington and graduated from the school in 1996, it will be his first time back to his old stomping ground as a coach.
“As a kid growing up I lived in Washington all my life,” McGill said. “I played recreation ball at Kugler field, played at P.S. Jones Middle School and then at Washington. I never thought I would be coming back to coach against my alma-matter.”
Hurricane Irene has made it a hectic two weeks for all the area teams, but tonight’s game hopes to bring back some normalcy.
“We’ve never had a situation were we’ve missed a game that was scheduled,” Washington coach Sport Sawyer said. “We’ve had games that we have moved to different days, but never cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control.”
From a football aspect, the situation was not completely negative as it allowed any injured player time to heal. However, the extra time off may affect execution.
“It’s kind of hard to tell how the time off will affect us,” Sawyer said. “I think we did have a few guys injured, and from that aspect it helped. Continuity-wise, we had five turnovers last game against Tarboro and we have to cut those down.”
Against Tarboro, the Washington defense came up with a stop on the first possession of the game, but that was followed by the Pack throwing an interception that would eventually lead to a TD. On the ensuing kickoff, Washington fumbled and the Vikings scored again. The Pack never recovered from the momentum swing.
“I want to see us commit no turnovers,” Sawyer said. “I feel like we had two turnovers at the beginning of that Tarboro game that led to two huge touchdowns. I want to see our guys make no turnovers. If you’re going to be a good team then we have to eliminate turnovers.”
McGill can understand where Sawyer is coming from. In the their first two games of the season, the Knights have had several positive drives stalled by penalties and fumbles. Riverside did a better job keeping its drives alive against South Creek on Monday, and the school knows it must continue to do that tonight against Washington.
“I think on Monday we just didn’t have as many self-inflicted wounds,” McGill said. “The first two games we had a lot of drives stop because we stopped ourselves. We would move the ball, but then have penalty here or a missed snap there. I thought Monday night we did a better job of taking care of those things and hopefully we can keep getting better each week.”
Against South Creek, first-year starting junior quarterback Matt Wisiniewski went 8-for-15 for 250 yards and two TDs. One of those TD passes came on a 77-yard screen play to 6-8 WR Marcus Freeman, who was last year’s WDN Basketball Player of the Year. Though he is a bit of a raw talent, Sawyer knows his defense can make no mistakes trying to defend Freeman.
“He’s taller than everybody we have on our team,” Sawyer said. “You just have to play good fundamental football and that’s what we’re going to try and do. He’s got talent and we have to cover him because if we don’t he’s going to score one or two on us.”
When the Riverside defense is on the field, its primary concern will be slowing down dual-threat quarterback Jimmy Williams.
“I’ve been impressed with their quarterback,” McGill said. “I think he’s a good athlete and he does a great job running their offense. They got a few good backs back there, they have a lot of weapons.”
On defense, both teams will look to bring pressure. Riverside is known to make a lot of aggressive calls and Sawyer said how is team handles the Knights’ attack will be a big key to tonight’s game.
“They bring a lot of blitzes and we have to make sure our guys step in their gaps and cover the blitzes,” Sawyer said. “Also, the big thing this week is that our backs and receivers have to block. If we don’t block on the edge we’re not going to win.” Leading into tonight’s game the Knights, which are a on the bigger side for 1A schools, are taking the underdog approach against the Pam Pack, who are on the smaller side of 3A schools.
“I’m telling my kids its Appalachian State versus Michigan,” McGill said. “We are going to play against a 3A school and nobody’s going to give us a chance to win this game, just like nobody gave App State a chance. We just have to go out there and take care of business.”