11/10/05 — It's a whole new season

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It's a whole new season

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on November 10, 2005 2:09 PM

Not every high school athlete or team gets a shot at making school history. Most simply never get that opportunity.

The Southern Wayne and Spring Creek football teams, however, will get that chance on Friday night in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

Dating back to 1972, the Saints are 0-6 in the postseason, including hard-fought losses the last two years to West Brunswick and Nash Central. Southern Wayne (7-4), the 10th seed in the Class 3-A (small school) bracket, will travel to face No. 7 Bertie (4-7).

"We've got several seniors that have been with us for three years on varsity. They remember the last couple of playoff games, and hopefully know what it will take to get over that hump," Saints' coach Bob Warren said. "I think our kids are looking forward to winning a first-round playoff game."

Meanwhile, the Gators are 0-4 in the playoffs, but have never been seeded as high as they are this year -- a No. 10 seed in the 1-AA (large school) bracket. After a third-place finish in the Carolina Conference and best season in school history, Spring Creek (6-5) travels to Louisburg (5-6).

The last four years, the Gators have had to face state-power Wallace-Rose Hill twice and perennially-tough North Brunswick and North Edgecombe once each in the first round.

"Our players were disappointed we didn't get a home game, but after we explained the situation to them, they are looking forward to it," Spring Creek coach Roy Whitfield said. "We're not having to go to Wallace or North Brunswick. The seniors are really aware of the fact that this could be their last game from here on out. That's where the leadership is stepping up.

"They feel good about it."

Both the Saints and Gators should enter the postseason with confidence coming off wins against conference rivals in the final week of the regular season.

Southern Wayne turned in its first shutout of the season and played resiliently in all facets of the game in a 24-0 win at Charles B. Aycock. The Saints' will was tested throughout the game with penalties and several Falcon drives near or inside the red zone.

Each time, Southern Wayne stepped up, while the offense put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.

Bertie, of the Northeastern Coastal 3-A 2-A, has won four-of-six to close the season after starting 0-5. The Falcons feature speed across the board, even on the offensive and defensive lines.

"We don't need any turnovers, and we've got to be able to throw it some to keep them off-balance," Warren said. "The main thing offensively is blocking as well or better than the last game we played. Defensively, we need to take over where we left off. Get pressure on their quarterback and keep him contained ... play aggressive defensive football."

Spring Creek closed the season with a 38-32 win in overtime over North Duplin in Seven Springs as the Gators rallied from a 20-0 deficit in the first quarter to post the comeback victory. The win marked the first time Spring Creek has ever finished over .500 overall and during conference play.

This week, the Gators will face another tough, physical test as they take on a Warrior squad that is led by their power rushing attack and hard-nosed defense.

"Their (Louisburg's) conference is pretty physical. They came in second place and got better each week," Whitfield said. "They come right at you. They don't do anything fancy. They run two tight ends in the wishbone and use their strength ... don't run outside or throw a whole lot.

"On defense, they are very aggressive."

Both Warren and Whitfield applauded the efforts of their senior leadership through the season.

Southern Wayne seniors Marcus Oates, Michael Warren, Derrick Lathan and David Combs have two years of postseason experience under their belts and have been with the varsity team since they were sophomores.

"They're just a group who has strived to make it a successful season. Knowing they were going to be relying on such young players to make us successful, they've pushed these kids to make them better," Warren said of his seniors. "It's great to see things work out for our seniors."

Without a junior varsity program, Spring Creek will enter the playoffs with a host of upper classmen who have played at the varsity level since they were freshmen.

"We've had good individual leaders in the last three or four years, but this group of seniors and juniors has really stepped up," Whitfield said. "I knew it would eventually happen, but more so this year than the previous years."