Washington’s Sawyer named 2015 Daily News Coach of the Year

Published 3:24 pm Thursday, June 11, 2015



It began with a cool summer night in August. Hundreds of local Pam Pack supporters filled the rickety stands at Kugler Field to get a glimpse of the new team, a preview of what was in store for the 2014 football season.

During warm-ups, defensive coordinator Jon Blank walked alongside the perfectly spaced rows of players, blowing his whistle and initialing the “up-down” drill. DeWayne Kellum shouted words of encouragement at his lineman, as did assistant coaches Alex Heck and Eric Peartree. Along with Ronny Woolard, Phil Harris, Johnny Rodman, Steven Flowers and Kent Hill, it was a unique group of coaches focused on early season conditioning in hopes of making a statement four months down the road.

“In our coaching staff, there’s a lot of personality,” said head coach Sport Sawyer. “All of us have something in common — that’s we want to win.”

And win the Pam Pack did.

After suffering a blowout road loss in the opener at Havelock, Washington routed what would eventually be a 10-win Tarboro team. On Sept. 5, facing a deficit, the Pam Pack battled back against D.H. Conley, a 3-A opponent, securing a 30-24 victory. At the time, it was an upset of sorts, but little did Sawyer and the coaching staff know, the win over the Vikings would be the last time the Washington defense would allow more than 20 points … all season.

Through the next 12 contests, including four in the postseason, the defense averaged just six points a game, as Washington coasted to its second-consecutive Eastern Plains Conference title, taking the No. 1 overall seed in the East.

Washington had earned a meeting with the West’s winner, undefeated East Lincoln, in the state championship, the program’s first title game appearance since 1956.

“The players and their work ethic at practice — they were there for a reason and that set the tone for us,” Sawyer said. “They wanted to get better. The coaches, everyday at practice, wanted them to get better. The community wanted something to believe in and we’re going to try to give them something to believe in. There’s nothing like the support of people when they lined the streets that day, that was pretty cool for a small town.”

Through it all, Sawyer kept his players humble, respectful and appreciative of the history. When players like former wingback Bartow Houston came and spoke, they listened, intently. A benchmark along the “Long Blue Line” of Pam Pack football history, the 2014 team had more to play for than simply pride.

In the championship game, an extra point was the difference between forcing overtime and coming home with state runner-up medals. Washington fell to the NCHSAA Player of the Year Chazz Surratt and the Mustangs, 14-13, but certainly set the standard for the future of Pam Pack football.

“There’s not a day that has gone by where I’m not appreciative of what they did on the field, but at the same time, there’s some disappointment that we weren’t able to finish it,” Sawyer said. “I’m very proud of them for the players they are. In school they were well mannered. Personally, it was a pleasure to coach them.”




In two seasons at the helm, Jeff Carrow has completely reversed the fortunes of the Southside football program, turning a sub-.500 pushover to a 10-4 postseason threat. After going 3-9 in 2013, the Seahawks, even with a mid-season injury to starting quarterback Johnny Sullivan, still managed to finished second in the Coastal Plains Conference, averaging 261 rushing yards per game.



Inheriting one of the most talented softball teams in the area, first year coach Riley Youmans led Northside to 24-straight wins this season, before the team fell to North Duplin in the eastern regional championship. The Panthers finished with the second-best offense in 1-A and coasted to a Coastal Plains Conference championship.



For the first time in program history, the Terra Ceia baseball team had a winning season — a 15-6 record with a second-place finish in the Tarheel Independent Conference. The Knights were known for the clutch gene, winning a collection of games with late, two-out rallies. In the conference tournament, the Knights made it all the way to the finals, where they fell to powerhouse Lawrence by just one run.



Coming off a 2-A state runner-up season, a depleted Washington team took the field in 2015 with many questions, including how to replace striker Christian Heggie’s 55 goals. With 10 freshmen on the roster, the Pam Pack still managed to finish 15-6, win a playoff game and easily take home a second-straight Eastern Plains Conference championship.