08/21/08 — Football preview: Eastern Wayne

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Football preview: Eastern Wayne

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 21, 2008 1:35 PM

A year older and a year wiser.

Eastern Wayne head coach Jeff Price hopes that's the case with his football team. The Warriors' seven losses in 2007 came by an average of eight points, with five of those seven losses coming by less than a touchdown.

"We've talked about it a lot this summer," Price said of his team's inability to finish ballgames last season. "It could have been inexperience. It could have been youth. It could have been a lot of different factors.

"In all those games we were in the hunt right down to the end and we couldn't seal the deal. That's where you mature when you can seal that deal. Hopefully we'll be mature this year."

Fourteen starters return to a squad that went 5-7 last season and fell 42-21 to Northeast Guilford in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A (small-school) playoffs. Nine of those starters return to an offense centered around an experienced offensive line and plenty of depth at the skill positions. Senior Dan Price is back to engineer an offense that averaged nearly 21 points a contest a season ago.

Junior Hassan Best, who produced 1,293 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, returns and will be joined in the backfield by brother Lamar. Will White, a 6-foot-2 junior, gives the Warriors a formidable threat in the receiving game.

"A lot of our offense is back," said Price. "Hassan is a very good running back and his brother (Lamar) will be in the backfield with him, and he's a little bit smaller and quicker.

"Sometimes I don't think Hassan understands how good he can really be. I think he'll have another great year for us."

Eastern Wayne returns four starters on defense and will have to fill the holes left by departed linebackers Nolan Lancaster, Foy Coley and Anthony Williams. Lancaster led the team with 124 tackles last season.

Despite the absence of several defensive staples from the past few years, Price is optimistic his defense can contribute enough to keep the Warriors competitive.

"We have a player than can replace the size of Lancaster," said Price. "We may not be quite as big at linebacker or as strong, but we'll be faster. With a pretty solid defensive front and two very good defensive ends I think we'll be fine in that department."

The Warriors travel to Wilson to face Eastern Carolina 3-A preseason favorites Hunt and Beddingfield on back-to-back Fridays in October. Those crucial ECC matchups should go a long way in determining Eastern Wayne's postseason fate.