08/16/12 — FOOTBALL TAB - Southern Wayne: Saints' coaches excited with team's work ethic

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FOOTBALL TAB - Southern Wayne: Saints' coaches excited with team's work ethic

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 16, 2012 1:48 PM

There was no mistaking David Lee's tone after Southern Wayne held its third practice of the fall on Aug. 2. The second-year head coach was guarded and tentative when assessing what he saw on the practice field.

What a difference a week can make.

Lee was excited to talk about how far the Saints have come in just six days of workouts prior to the team's scrimmage with South Lenoir.

"The kids have come a long way already," Lee said. "One thing I can say is that this group is willing to work hard because they want to win games and they want to have a good season and I think we are capable of that."

Last season the team gave fans at the Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex plenty of reasons to cheer. The Saints logged a 6-5 overall record in 2011 and advanced to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs where they were defeated by Southern Vance.

That group was a senior-laden team full of experience.

The 2012 edition of the Saints will not have the same battle-tested veterans, does boast a core built around young players who are eager to prove themselves.

"The biggest thing we need going into the season is game-speed snaps," Lee said. "I am confident that the guys understand what we are doing on offense and defense as far as assignments, but there is no real way to teach instincts in practice."

Southern Wayne will try to control the clock while it gets its collective feet wet at the varsity level in its traditional Wing-T offense. Lee and his staff have spent the past two weeks finding three new starters for the offensive line, including both guard spots.

"Guards in the Wing-T are huge for sure," Lee said. "The guys we have in there have seen what they are supposed to do, so now we just need to get them accustomed to live action."

Southern Wayne will likely employ a two-headed quarterback attack with senior Thomas Kelly and sophomore Jacob Hollingsworth sharing the snaps. A deep corps of running backs, led by returning starter Andrew Matthews, should help alleviate some of the pressure on the signal callers.

On defense, new coordinator Glen Gardner takes over a unit that boasts good speed and the willingness to hit. The Saints return three starters from last season, but Lee has been pleased with what he has seen from the unit in practice.

"Coach Gardner has come in and kept some of the things I was doing with the defense last season," Lee said. "And he has added some new things and put some new looks in our base set."

Southern Wayne opens the season against James Kenan on Friday. The Saints entertain defending league champion Triton in their Eastern Carolina 3-A opener Sept. 28.

"We have to come out and be ready to go right out of the gate," Lee said. "Our non-conference schedule is tough, but I feel like it is going to prepare us for when we get to that second half of the season and get into league play."