Game of the week - Eastern Wayne at North Lenoir
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on September 27, 2007 3:00 PM
LaGRANGE -- Eastern Wayne head football coach Jeff Price knows there is reason for concern when facing an opponent that's yet to crack the win column.
He just hopes his concerns don't become realities when the Warriors travel to winless North Lenoir on Friday night.
"That does cause concern," Price said. "Because they're so many things that can happen that you don't expect to happen. There's always that element of surprise. You always have a certain amount of concern for teams that are searching.
"We don't want to be the team that makes their season."
The Hawks (0-5 overall) are looking to rebound from a 13-6 loss at Charles B. Aycock last week. They had possession late in the game, but an interception spoiled any chance of a comeback.
Despite his team's slow start, Hawks' coach Wayne Jackson hasn't seen any signs of quit from his young squad. North Lenoir out-gained Aycock 174-162 in total yards and appears to inching toward the winner's circle with each passing week. The Hawks' losses have been by an average of just over 10 points per game.
"We've played pretty good defense and we've had a pretty good kicking game, and those have kept us in some ballgames," Jackson said. "We're just working at what we do and trying to get better. We're a very good football team, we just have to try to improve on offense.
"Our morale is surprisingly pretty good."
Eastern Wayne (3-2) is coming off a bye week, after a heart-breaking 17-14 loss at home to West Craven in a game that took four days to complete after being suspended because of lightning.
The Warriors defense was torched for 372 yards in that game, 286 of which came through the air. North Lenoir's run-oriented attack that mustered just 106 yards on 36 carries (2.9 yards per carry) a week ago, should be a welcomed sight for Eastern Wayne's defensive unit.
"Defensively speaking, we're still allowing less than two touchdowns a game," Price said. "We have a game plan put together and that plan is designed around stopping what they do. I think most coaches are going to do the things they know the best. Whether it's on the ground or in the air, or a balance of it."
Meanwhile, North Lenoir will be faced with the task of slowing down the Warriors' rushing attack of Dwight Ulmer and Hassan Best. The backfield duo has shown flashes of explosiveness this season. Ulmer took the opening kickoff against West Craven 75 yards for a touchdown, and also rumbled 36 yards on a pivotal third-down play to help set up the potential game-tying field goal.
If the Hawks can limit the amount of big plays Eastern Wayne's two-headed monster is able to produce, they can conceivably stay within striking distance.
"We have done a good job on defense and we've been a confident group," Jackson said. "Our problem is so many of them are on offense, too. When things go wrong, some of those same kids get demoralized and they carry their mistakes over to offense with them.
"We have to be ready again this week for a good, strong Eastern Wayne running game. They have talent on the offensive line and in the backfield. If we can limit their big plays and cut down on our turnovers we'll have a chance to win."
Also at stake for the Hawks is the their streak of five consecutive trips to the postseason. While they still have their entire Class 2-A Eastern Plains Conference schedule ahead of them, heading into league play with a much-needed win and momentum certainly couldn't hurt.
"I wouldn't say there's urgency yet," Jackson said. "It has been good that we've made playoffs the last five years. We had only made the playoffs one time before that. Our kids are proud of that and they want to continue that.
"Hopefully we can get a win and win enough games in our conference to make the playoffs again this year."
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