09/22/05 — Game of the week -- Apex at Eastern Wayne

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Game of the week -- Apex at Eastern Wayne

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 22, 2005 2:13 PM

Longtime friends Jeff Price and Goldsboro native Bob Wolfe scanned their respective schedules during the summer's annual coaches meeting and realized they each had an open date the same week.

Upon that discovery, the two talked about their respective teams and their expectations. By day's end, Price and Wolfe -- a former coach at Eastern Wayne who is now at Apex -- agreed to play a non-conference endowment contest.

"Eastern Wayne hasn't been playing an endowment game in recent years and we wanted to close that open date on the schedule," said Price. "That gives us 11 straight games with no break. Apex for me, that's exciting, and I think it's exciting for Eastern Wayne, too.

"Coach Wolfe is from Goldsboro ... that's kind of a novelty and a nice thing about Apex coming in. He has done a super job there and built a good football program."

Apex enters 3-1 and has won 13 of its last 17 games overall. The Cougars return just two starters on offense and defense, but three are quality, disciplined players.

Senior linebackers Julius Sloan (5-foot-10, 199 pounds) and Kyle Johnson (5-9, 182) anchor the Cougars' defense, which is similar to the Warriors' 4-4 alignment. Sloan and Johnson, an honorable mention selection in the Class 4-A Tri-Seven Conference, combined for nearly 90 tackles last season.

Junior fullback Rob Kaukereit (5-10, 199) piled up 1,000-plus yards and 10 touchdowns rushing last season. He earned honorable mention accolades.

"We seem to mirror each other to a certain degree, which was somewhat interesting when I sat down to watch film," said Price. "They execute very well and they're disciplined ball players. They play with a lot of heart and class, and will be outstanding competition."

The teams are comparable in size man for man, unlike last week when D.H. Conley outweighed Eastern Wayne by an average of 30 pounds per player on the line. Price admitted the Cougars might be slightly larger by a few pounds.

The Warriors (3-1) endured their first loss in heartbreaking fashion last Friday. Out of timeouts and with valuable time quickly ticking away, quarterback Tyler Ham spiked the ball on a third-down play close to the goal line late in the fourth quarter. Ham hustled to the sideline and then the unthinkable happened.

The officials flagged Price's team for illegal procedure, spotted the ball and blew the whistle to restart the clock. A stunned group of Warriors watched the clock tick to triple zeroes.

"That's the best team we've played all year long when it comes to size, strength and speed, but we played with them," said Price after the defeat. "All you can ask is to be in a position to win at the end. There's no doubt in my mind if we get another play off that we can get it in the end zone."

Eastern Wayne hasn't dwelled on the loss. Price and his coaching staff analyzed film this week and assessed weaknesses that surfaced against Conley.

Price said the team must do a better job of blocking on the edge in its triple-option attack. The Warriors need to sustain possessions and avoid numerous three-and-out series.

Conley focused on bruising fullback Al Graham and kept Eastern Wayne from bouncing outside into open field. The strategy opened the play-action pass for Tyler Ham, who threw for a season-high 144 yards and three touchdowns -- all to Clint Rouse.

Coach Steve Moats made some defensive adjustments at halftime and the Warriors yielded only one second-half touchdown. The Vikings collected 254 yards total offense, but didn't complete a pass in six attempts.

"Our defense stepped it up in the second half and we need to continue to do that each game," said Price.

Price hopes junior linebacker Adrian Black (6-1, 206) can return to the lineup this week. David Ratliff's status remains uncertain after sustaining an injury during the first half two weeks ago at Wilson Fike.

Discipline is crucial to Eastern Wayne's success.

"We have to be disciplined and totally consumed by the game," said Price. "Apex is well-coached ... a disciplined football team and that alone can win football games. To a degree, I think that's been part of their success.

"Our kids are still learning the definition of being disciplined athletes and total players."

Conley snapped the Warriors' three-game win streak, the program's best start since 1978. Price won four games during his first season in New Hope and says the program is slowly reaching his long-term expectations. A pee-wee team is in place and changes have been made on the middle school level.

Once all those pieces fit snugly together, Price thinks he'll have a program that will earn some much-deserved recognition. This is undoubtedly the most-talented team that Price has coached in his three-year tenure.

"Overall, sure it's fun, but I don't think anyone wants to see these guys succeed more than myself and the coaching staff," said Price. "They've worked hard and you want to see them reap the benefits of that hard work.

"I want them to experience what it's like to have an outstanding season and not only the glory that comes with it, but the satisfaction that we did it when no one else said we could."