All-Area - Best racks up 2,000-yard campaign
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 12, 2004 2:02 AM
Walter Best walked around the Charles B. Aycock weight room with a football tightly tucked to his side. He'd spin it every once in a while as he stopped to read a chart or check out a weight bench.
Once the photographer had finished taking Best's photo, Aycock coach Randy Pinkowski walked over to him.
"Give me my football, Walter," he said.
Opposing tacklers wished it could have been that easy to coax the pigskin from Best's strong grip this season. The Southern Wayne running back rarely fumbled and rarely got stopped at the line of scrimmage as he pounded his way to a 2,000-yard season.
Best easily emerged the area's top rusher and tallied 20 touchdowns for the Saints, who advanced to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A (small-school) playoffs. He surpassed the 100-yard plateau in 10 contests and had three consecutive 200-yard outings during Southern Wayne's mid-season, five-game win streak.
For his efforts, Best is the 2004 News-Argus Offensive Player of the Year.
"Walter was our featured back this year and carried the ball probably 90 percent of the time," veteran Saints coach Bob Warren said. "He's durable and a hard runner. Midway through this year, he really exploded and started getting a lot of extra yards after first contact.
"It was good to see Walter finish up his career at Southern Wayne like he did."
But just how good was Best?
Here's the answer: The speedy 5-foot-8, 185-pound fullback rushed for a combined 3,326 yards on 431 carries during his junior and senior campaigns. He collected 35 touchdowns, an average of 1.45 per outing and averaged nearly eight yards per rush.
Best rambled for a season-best 254 yards against archrival Eastern Wayne and topped the 200-yard mark against South Central (235 yards), West Carteret (252) and Washington (251).
"He's deceivingly fast," Warren said. "When you watch him run, you don't think he's running quite as fast as he is until you're out there on the field chasing him. He's got very good vision, too."
Best needed that vision.
Southern Wayne graduated several experienced linemen last season and Best wasn't sure how well the line would trap and pull in the misdirection wing-T offense. A new center (sophomore Will Smith) caused some concern, but he quickly learned the nuances amd improved daily in the run-oriented scheme.
The Saints, with Best and Brian White in the backfield, consistently benefited from two bread-and-butter plays -- isolation (between guard and tackle) and guard trap, which allowed Best to run up the middle.
White blocked for Best on the isolation.
"It worked real good and that's where most of my yards came from," Best said. "Brian blocked most of the time, but if he missed, I had to make a move to get extra yardage.
"Last year most of my plays came from the guard trap -- touchdown-wise."
Warren said that Best appeared determined this season not to surrender to the initial tackler. On several occasions, Best dragged two or more defenders downfield for extra yardage.
Best's durability also proved crucial. Warren couldn't remember substituting him during any offensive series because of fatigue or injury. Like any leader, Best shouldered the responsibility and remained intent on helping the Saints succeed.
Southern Wayne concluded the year 7-5 with a 6-2 worksheet against ECC opposition. Best helped the Saints earn their first-ever home playoff football game, a 31-20 loss to Nash Central. He rushed for two touchdowns and caught another touchdown pass as his prep career came to a bittersweet end.
However, Best isn't done with football.
He's entertaining a few offers from smaller schools and is currently favoring Benedict (S.C.) College.
"If that doesn't work, I'll go to junior college and hopefully transfer," Best said.
Warren, obviously, doesn't want to see Best go.
"He's got a lot of good qualities and has been a steady part of our program for three years," Warren said. "We will certainly miss him next year and wish him the best."
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