Pack goes all in
Published 8:24 pm Thursday, November 15, 2012
The deck is stacked against him, but Washington football coach Sport Sawyer has pushed his chips to the center of the table. The only question now is who else is all in.
That was the question posed to the team on Tuesday night when the Pam Pack found out it would be playing defending state champions Havelock in the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs without star quarterback Jimmy Williams, who will be sidelined with a back injury.
“Tuesday was rough. The guys were a little down when they realized Jimmy wasn’t going to play this week,” Sawyer said. “But we challenged the guys. We told them, ‘Hey, we’re the Pack and we play as a team.’
“We’re facing a challenge this week, and it’s even more of a challenge now. Some people run from challenges and some people live off them, but we’re going to embrace it and play as hard as we can and have a good time Friday night.”
The good times have been in abundance for the third-seeded Pam Pack (10-2), who with its 28-21 win over Hertford last week reached the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 1956.
Washington has won six straight games and will put that streak on the line tonight when it boards the bus to face the Coastal Conference rival Rams (12-0), who ended the regular season as the third-ranked team in the state.
It was against Hertford that Williams, who rushed 228 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts, injured his back late in the third quarter.
Sophomore Patrick Thompson came in with about 10 minutes remaining in the game and put the finishing touches on it by leading the team on a touchdown-scoring drive.
The loss of Williams is a big one but it is not insurmountable. Thompson, who has started two games for Washington this season, has seen plenty of action and has completed 50 percent of his passes for 285 yards, three TDs and one interception.
Thompson may not be the rushing threat that Williams is, but he has a good arm and his ability to sling it could be a wildcard factor tonight.
“Patrick can throw the ball,” Sawyer said. “All year long we have sprinkled in some three and four receiver sets in practice and he has done a good job with it.”
Helping absorb the loss of Williams will be an offensive line that has played well all season along and a group of skill players that are the best Washington has had in years.
Junior WR/RB Stevie Green has put forth a sensational season as he has rushed for 871 yards and nine TDs, while catching 19 passes for 493 yards and 11 scores.
Sophomore RB Markell Spencer is second on the team in rushing with 1,187 yards, while D.J. Bell, Stephon Moore and Trey Spruill have provided key plays throughout the season.
Washington will need all of them to step up tonight as it faces a Havelock team that rolled past Jacksonville 46-0 last Friday and has given up only 53 points all season.
The Pack accounted for seven of those points when the two teams met in Week 7 when Washington fell 34-7.
While Pack is minus its star quarterback, the Rams are not and will be led by dual threat Pharoh Cooper, who has committed to South Carolina as an athlete.
Cooper has been stellar this season and has thrown for 2,398 yards and 21 TDs, while rushing for 1,094 yards and 19 scores.
“He’s been throwing the ball a lot better than what I anticipated,” Sawyer said of Cooper. “He’s a very good athlete and you have to give their coaches credit for the way they have coached him … He does special teams too and we are just going to have to try and keep the ball out of his hands.”
Cooper will face a Pam Pack defense that has been stout all season long and came up with key stops during the Hertford game.
Tonight, it is imperative that the defense finds a way to slow down Cooper.
“We can’t let up big plays,” Sawyer said. “We have to make them drive the field and earn it.”
If Washington can do that, it will move on to the East Regional round of the playoffs where it will face the winner of the Alamance-Orange matchup.