Sport Sawyer steps down as Pam Pack coach

Published 4:24 pm Monday, November 14, 2016

Sport Sawyer announced Monday afternoon he’s stepping down as the team’s head coach.

Washington’s football season came to an end after Friday night’s loss to Southwest Edgecombe. Sawyer believes that a change of guard is necessary after the way this season went.

The Pam Pack finished the campaign 3-8 (3-2 Eastern Plains Conference). The season was disappointing, especially by Sawyer’s standards. He feels like the team has been in a rut since losing the 2014 state championship. It followed up that season with a 7-5 record and a share of the conference title last year, but was blanked, 34-0, by Northside-Jacksonville in the first round of the playoffs.

“You put a lot of time and effort into this program, and so did the other coaches and the players,” Sawyer said. “You look at every aspect of what you’re doing. This is a great program. We’ve got good support from the school system, the administration, and you’ve got to look at the big picture.

“Right now, a little change is needed.”

Such a decision is never an easy one. Sawyer, a Belhaven native, has been with the Pam Pack since 1996. After taking the head coach position in 2004, Sawyer went on to be the winningest coach since the legendary J.G. “Choppy” Wagner.

He took the team to the promised land in 2014. It was a dream season for the Pam Pack. After losing to Havelock in the season opener, Washington rattled off 14 wins in a row before a one-point loss to East Lincoln in the state championship.

“I’ve always looked up to Washington,” Sawyer said. Being from Belhaven, he always believed Washington to be a big city. “It’s been an honor to be able to coach here and be a part of the program. It’s really hard. It’s the end of a chapter.”

Sawyer said he’ll always remember what it was like to coach some of the great football players that have come through the program.

“They made it fun, and these guys here made it fun,” he said. “These guys are great guys and coaches. It’s tough, but I think a new energy and a new look will do them good.”

Sawyer met with the team on Monday afternoon to announce his decision.

“These last couple of years have been tough on me on a personal end,” he told them. “I’m not blaming anybody. It’s the nature of the beast.”

The players lined up and thanked Sawyer one by one, shaking his hand and giving him a hug.

Even with the underwhelming season, Sawyer and the Pam Pack had a lot to be proud of. They faced a ton of adversity — everything from losing their starting quarterback days before the season opener to a lack of depth and experience at key positions up front.

The team nearly salvaged the season. After starting 0-6, it won its first three conference outings, and came one game from a playoff berth.

Sawyer never gave up, and that’s what he wants his legacy at Washington to be.

“The only thing I wanted to do, like I said to the players, was give it everything you’ve got. I know there are other coaches out there that are a heck of a lot smarter than I am, but I gave it everything I’ve got.

“I’m very proud that our guys fought through the years. Even this year, our record is not what we want, but I do think the guys fought hard and played hard. That’s it. I would like the Washington Pam Pack, under myself, to be known for hard football and do the best they can.”

A coaching search will commence, and thus begins a new chapter for Pam Pack football.