You got to believe

Published 9:47 pm Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tonight, the Washington football team will look to keep its playoff hopes alive as it hosts Coastal Conference rival West Carteret on Senior Night. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

Win and in? Not exactly, but Washington’s playoff hopes will surely receive a Big Blue boost if it can find a way to take down Coastal Conference rival West Carteret in tonight’s regular season finale at J.G. “Choppy” Wagner Stadium.
Heading into the matchup, the Pam Pack (5-4, 3-3) is locked in a three-way tie for the coveted third place spot in the standings with the Patriots (7-3, 3-3) and White Oak (4-6, 3-3), as they all sit behind conference leader Havelock (10-0, 6-0) and D.H. Conley (8-2, 5-1).
Finishing in the top three in the conference is extremely important because those teams are guaranteed a playoff spot. A fourth place finish means that team has a strong chance to earn a wild card birth, however, whichever team places fifth in the standings is likely on the wrong side of the bubble.
Washington will take the field tonight with an astounding 10 players out with injuries, and another three that were tabbed “questionable” during the week. Pam Pack coach Sport Sawyer said the key for his shorthanded team to be successful is for his players to believe in each other.
“This is a confidence game. We have to start off with confidence, we can’t wait,” Sawyer said. “We have to start off with confidence and play that way throughout the game. Tonight we can finish anywhere from third place to fifth place (in the standings) and we have to come out and play every play hard.”
In order for the Pam Pack to clinch a playoff birth it must first beat West Carteret, then have Jacksonville (2-8, 1-5) go on the road and top White Oak.
If both Washington and White Oak win, the teams would technically share third place with 4-3 conference records, but White Oak would receive the automatic playoff birth because it won its head-to-head matchup with Washington 21-0 in Week 8.
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Pam Pack as youth and injuries have forced coach Sawyer and his staff to juggle lineups and schemes each week. The most devastating blow to the team came in that Week 8 loss to White Oak when dual-threat QB Jimmy Williams suffered a broken nose and a sever concussion, which in all likelihood ended his season.
Washington failed to post any points versus the Vikings, and its next two opponents as well, but last Friday the team finally found the end zone and it could not have come at a better time.
Trailing South Central 13-0 late in the third quarter, Washington quarterbacks Austin Thompson and D.J. Bell were able to connect on a few key passes to spark some life in the offense. From there, the Pack caught fire as it ripped off 21 unanswered points to steal a 21-13 victory and keep its dreams of the postseason alive.
Thompson, a freshman, found WR Jack Rodman for two TDs, while the third sore came on a game-clinching 53-yard touchdown run by Keane Graham.
Playing a young QB, Sawyer started off the game with conservative play calls, but after seeing his team execute late in the game against South Central, the coach said he might loosen up the leash a little bit.
“Thompson has good field vision and in practice this week he has thrown the ball real well, he’s just young and developing,” Sawyer said. “We have a couple of guys in Jack Rodman and D.J. Bell and Austin Mitchell that can catch the ball, so we are possibly looking to throw more.”
South Central will attack with a ground-based offense that likes to run the ball out of a few different formations.
Sawyer said the key to stopping the Falcons is to get a staunch effort and solid tackling from the defense.
“We need to be strong up the middle. They are going to run up the middle so we have to have guys like Brandon Young, Baylone Guilford, Austin Mitchell, Pernell Razor and Jaquez Columbus step up,” Sawyer said. “The middle has to play well. I think the outside guys will be able to contain them, but we can’t let them gash us up the middle.”
Tonight will also be Senior Night for Washington as seniors Ricky Dunlop, Corey Davis, Thomas Blount, Davis Rumley, Jeremy Deitrick, Geovanne Romero, Jordan Arnold, Razor, Graham and Mitchell will suit up for their final home game at Washington High School.