08/18/05 — Game of the week -- Injury bug bites Saints

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Game of the week -- Injury bug bites Saints

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on August 18, 2005 2:04 PM

For Saints fans, it's an inauspicious start.

At last Friday's scrimmage at Southern Vance in Henderson, Southern Wayne quarterback Michael Holland -- a likely starter -- broke his left arm after he was tackled while scrambling outside of the pocket on a pass play. Holland, a junior, will miss the entire season.

In the same scrimmage, defensive stalwart and offensive lineman Jo Jo Davis injured his shoulder, while Thomas Oliver (wide receiver/defensive end) hurt his wrist. Davis (Sr.) and Oliver (Jr.) are both out indefinitely.

Injuries are part of every team's season, especially in football, but Holland, Davis and Oliver are three, key upperclassmen on a youthful team which graduated 16 seniors from a program which finished 7-5 and earned the school's first-ever home playoff game. Compounding matters, there are no cupcakes on the Saints' non-conference schedule. So the young players will have to adjust quickly against talented teams -- including Friday's season opener at home against former Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference foe, West Craven.

"We were going to be young offensively already, but with the injuries we become much younger. It's going to take us time to learn the offense with our newer players," 10-year Southern Wayne coach Bob Warren said. "We take each game one-by-one, and it's a tough schedule that will put us through a test.

"It will make this young team mature quickly. We're young just about everywhere, not just where we had the injuries."

Emmanuel Hinton, a sophomore, and freshman Jordan Williams are the other two quarterbacks listed on Southern Wayne's roster.

"Offensively, we're doing some good things. We just need more repetition versus defenses. We just haven't got the experience yet," Warren said. "The kids are working as hard as they possibly can, but there is no substitute for game experience. We've got to get that, and that will start Friday night."

West Craven, which ran off four-straight, ECC titles with a league record of 28-1 the last four years, may be healthier than the Saints, but it is also less experienced than previous years under veteran coach Clay Jordan.

"We've got three starters back on offense and two on defense. We're very green," Jordan said. "We lost our offensive line, quarterback and main wide receiver. We're running around like chickens with our heads cut off. It's kinda early. These endowments, we look at them as a glorified scrimmages."

The Eagles do return 1,000-yard rusher and fullback Jamaine Moore and backfield-mate Charles Morgan.

Warren believes his defensive unit, led by senior linebackers David Combs and Derrick Lathan, must stop West Craven's talented backs, while the young offense must limit its mistakes.

"All their backs are back. They were talented in that area last year and will be again this year," he said. "They are well-coached and are going to be a big test for us as a first game. We've got to hang on to the football and take care of it, especially this early in the season with a young team."

An epic game

last season

Last season in Vanceboro, West Craven strolled up to its home field riding the strength of a 31-game, ECC winning streak.

Thanks to a huge night from 2004 graduate Walter Best, who posted 196 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and some gritty defensive stops by the Saints in the fourth period, Southern Wayne snapped that streak to close the regular season on a five-game winning streak of its own after a 28-27 victory over the Eagles.

It marked one of, if not the biggest win in Warren's tenure with the Saints and helped secure Southern Wayne's home first-rounder against Nash Central.

"That was a big stepping stone for our kids last year. We made very few mistakes and did so many things right and came out a winner because of the hard work," Warren said. "We mentioned how great that was to the kids, but this is a new year and a new team. We have some kids back who experienced that win, but we've got a bunch of young kids who have not been in that type of situation.

"Hopefully our senior leadership can get across to these kids how great it is to play in a game like that."

Coaches reflect on old

ECC and realignments

All high school coaches, players, administrators and fans are focused on their new conferences this year as the N.C. High School Athletic Association's new realignment enters its first year.

As most know, Southern Wayne, Eastern Wayne, Charles B. Aycock, Kinston, Wilson Beddingfield and Wilson Hunt make up the new, Eastern Carolina Conference, which saw Goldsboro, West Craven, Washington, West Carteret and South Central move into new leagues.

West Craven, Washington, West Carteret and South Central are now part of the Coastal Eight 3-A/4-A Conference, which includes 4-A football powerhouses Greenville J.H. Rose and New Bern, along with 3-A schools Havelock and Greenville D.H. Conley.

"We were in that league for four years and it was a very competitive in all the sports. The new ECC benefits us with travel, but you build those friendships and those will be missed," Warren said. "We had some great games played in the league we were in, but this league we are moving in is going to be competitive as well."

Jordan, who admitted his school did not favor playing in a split 3-A/4-A league, echoed Warren's comments.

"We enjoyed that league. All the Wayne County schools ... we had not played any of them before we got in that league and we developed some good relationships with those schools," he said. "We had some success in that league, but not because the other teams didn't prepare. We were just fortunate. We enjoyed that area up there."