Pack readies for heavyweight rematch

Published 3:58 pm Friday, August 22, 2014

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS UNDERDOGS: Quarterback Patrick Thompson will look to lead Washington to its first win over Havelock in six years.

UNDERDOGS: Quarterback Patrick Thompson will look to lead Washington to its first win over Havelock in six years.

HAVELOCK — Head coach Sport Sawyer and the Pam Pack will certainly have their hands full tonight when the team hits the road to take on the defending NCHSAA Class 3-A State Champions.

Over the last three years, Havelock, a former Coastal Conference foe of the Pam Pack, has pieced together a near perfect football resume, which includes three consecutive state championships and a video game-like 47-1 record. The Rams’ last loss came on Aug. 24, 2012 at the hands of rival New Bern.

“With three state championships in a row, that speaks for itself,” Sawyer said. “We’re excited about that game, we’re going to go over there and play some Pack football and see where the dice rolls.”

This season, Havelock head coach Jim Bob Bryant returns a medley of state-champion starters on both sides of the ball, including senior quarterback Travis Sabdo, who threw for 2,584 yards and notched 40 touchdowns in 2013. Most of the underclassmen that shaped the best team in Class 3-A are back and primed to make a statement in their home opener.

And Sabdo has plenty of options at receiver to rack up even more yards passing this year. Seniors Michael Bowman and Matthew Boykin, the top two receivers in 2013, are back, along with junior Kyran Bowman, who was no slouch, catching 25 passes for 538 yards and eight TDs.

On defense, it only gets better for the Rams. Seniors Andrew Vanover, Joey Godette and Billy Watkins all return, as well as standout junior Keion Joyner to top off one of the top linebacking corps in North Carolina.

It’s up to a veteran group of offensive linemen for the Pam Pack to protect senior quarterback Patrick Thompson from Havelock’s collection of athletic linebackers. Thompson and Spencer have the skillset to keep the game competitive, but Neil Jennings, George Briley, Lane Jackson, Connor Sawyer and the rest of the Washington playmakers up front have to bring their A-game.

Sawyer sees today’s matchup as a good opening test for his team moving forward.

“Coach Bryant and the players do a very, very good job,” he said. “(The game) should be a good measuring stick for us to go compete and see where we need to be.”

Historically, the Pam Pack’s last win against Bryant and Havelock came in 2008, when Thompson’s brother, Austin, navigated his team to a 34-25 win in the first round of the playoffs. Like his brother, Austin was also a senior and the starting quarterback.

Since that game, the Rams have built a storied football program, defeating Washington in each of the last six games.

But Washington has built a resume of its own, making it to the semi-finals of the Class 2-A State Tournament in 2013. The Pam Pack also return Spencer, who rushed for 139 yards on 27 carries in last season’s 28-6 loss to Havelock. With a deeper core of running backs, a new starting quarterback and a physical group of linebackers, Sawyer believes his team’s athleticism will compensate for the loss in size up front.

A win will be hard to come by for Washington, but tonight should be a viable opening test for a team seeking another deep playoff run.