Tigers flourishing in Wing-T scheme
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on October 21, 2011 1:48 PM
When life gave the James Kenan football team a full plate of bad breaks over the first three weeks of the season, the Tigers could have quit.
Instead the team decided to make the best of it.
Following an 0-3 start that included lopsided losses to East Duplin and Jones Senior, head coach Ken Avent Jr. overhauled his offense and changed everything about what the offensive unit was doing. The result has been five consecutive victories and a trek to the top of the Tri-County 1-A Conference standings.
The impetus for the turnaround was the switch from a spread attack with quarterback Parker Jones to an option game with Dominique Barnes. After Jones suffered a concussion and was lost for the majority of the season, the team turned to Barnes and his fleet feet.
"The guys were not totally new to the Wing-T because we had used it a few seasons ago," said Avent Jr. "We were going to use it once in a while when we got in short yardage this season, so we basically just had to expand the playbook to cover the whole field."
Barnes led the Tigers to a win over Union to start conference play and has helped carry the team past Hobbton, Pender, Lakewood and Midway in consecutive weeks. Barnes has rushed 41 times for just 61 yards, but more importantly, he has constantly made good decisions regarding which of his teammates to hand the football to on each down.
"Dominique has definitely gotten better," said Avent Jr. "Really he had no other choice. It was either get good at running the Wing-T or we were going to struggle as a football team."
Devon Best leads the Tigers with 863 yards rushing on 117 carries this season. Most of that (745 yards) has come in the last five games. Marcelias Sutton has also logged a large number of carries (124) and racked up 771 yards on the ground.
The Tigers have outscored their opponents 141-51 during their five-game win streak. They hope to continue their dominance of TCC opponents tonight at Heide Trask.
"For some reason we traditionally start slow at Trask," said Avent Jr. "We need to have a good week of practice and turn that into a good performance from start to finish (tonight). Trask has some athletes and they have had kind of an up-and-down year, but when they have been good they have been very good."
A victory assures James Kenan of a showdown against county archrival and defending state champion Wallace-Rose Hill in Warsaw on Oct. 28. The Bulldogs won last year's meeting 28-14.
"We cannot be thinking about playing Wallace yet," said Avent Jr. "We have to beat Trask for that game to be as big as it could be. And right now we are not good enough to overlook anyone."