10/06/05 — Road Warriors visit Saints

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Road Warriors visit Saints

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 6, 2005 2:02 PM

DUDLEY -- Southern Wayne is 3-0 at home.

Eastern Wayne is 3-0 on the road.

Something's gotta give.

Veteran Saints coach Bob Warren wasn't aware his team hadn't experienced defeat this season inside the friendly confines of the Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex.

"Honestly, I don't keep track of things like that," said Warren, whose team didn't lose a road contest last season. "It's a conference game and it has to be won or lost since there are no ties. We just try to win every game home and away."

Winning on the road hasn't been easy for the Warriors. They outlasted South Central, and Clint Rouse's last-second field goal preserved a victory at Wilson Fike. Eastern Wayne (4-1-1) also trailed in the second half before claiming a three-touchdown win at North Lenoir last week.

"We have clawed and scraped our way everywhere we've been on the road and at home, but especially on the road," said Price, who is 1-2 against the Saints. "Our guys have hung in there, played to the last snap and the last second. They have done a good job.

"Southern Wayne is a good football team ... probably our toughest test of the year."

It's the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference opener for both teams. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and admission is $5.

Warren and Price, undoubtedly, are aware of the each team's offensive weapons, but the coaches quickly credited their opponent's defense for their success after six weeks of play.

Southern Wayne (4-2) yields 266.7 yards and 23.5 points. Those numbers might appear a little high, but the Saints survived shootouts against county rival Goldsboro, Southern Nash and Western Harnett.

Eastern Wayne has surrendered a county-low 177.3 yards on defense and 13.7 points per game.

"Defensively, they're about like they have been ... very tough to get yards on," said Warren. "We're getting our kids as prepared as possible to handle a tough game."

Sophomore Anthony Council spearheads the Saints' offensive arsenal and averages nearly 184 yards a game. The 6-foot, 189-pound back has a county-leading 1,103 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Derrick Lathan has been a solid complement to Council and opposing defenses have begun to respect first-year quarterback Emmanuel Hinton. Hinton filled the void left by starter Michael Holland, who broke his arm during a preseason scrimmage.

Hinton has matured week by week in the Saints' offense and the passing game has factored into a couple of victories.

"Two very good backs," said Price of Council and Lathan. "We're going to have to play sound, disciplined defense. I would say, for the most part, that we feel like we've been fairly sound throughout the year defensively. Our defense has played well from week to week and we're going to bend a little bit.

"While Southern Wayne has given up some points along the way, they've scored a lot of points, too. They find a multitude of ways to getting points on the board. Their offensive line is dag-gone good."

The Warriors have the experience edge in passing with Tyler Ham. A 5-10, 170-pound senior, Ham has thrown for nearly 500 yards and six touchdowns. He's rushed for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns.

Bruising fullback Al Graham leads the Warrior offense with 516 yards and six touchdowns. He's gotten solid backfield support from Andrew Blevins (218 yards, one TD) and Kendrick Best (217, 2 TDs).

Eastern Wayne averages 22 points and 235.3 yards offensively each outing.

"They're a very good running football team with a quarterback who leads the team well and throws the ball very well," Warren said of the Warriors. "They don't throw a lot, but when they do throw, they're usually effective. Their running backs are good and their line is doing a great job of blocking.

"They move the ball very well on the ground and in the air."

Warren said the Saints must play assignment football to control the Warriors' rush and pass attack. He also hopes turnovers don't factor into the outcome.

Price hopes his squad can start strong and protect the football, also. Eastern Wayne must limit its mistakes, particularly penalties, and keep its defense fresh against a team that thrives on ball-possession offense.