09/14/12 — Warriors' Pike taking ownership of team

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Warriors' Pike taking ownership of team

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 14, 2012 1:48 PM

Each time Eastern Wayne quarterback Mitch Pike stepped off the field last Friday evening, he searched for his offensive linemen.

Once he found them, he either slapped them on the shoulder or gave them a fist tap as they drank from water bottles in the humid night air.

It was Pike's way of saying "thanks."

The quintet -- Avery Bailey, Andre Smith, Jaelen Johnson, Derius Evans and Derius Sutton -- protected their sophomore signal caller and Pike responded with a career night. He threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns on 11 completions and rushed for three touchdowns in a 42-14 thrashing of Greene Central. Five different receivers shared the wealth from Pike, who undoubtedly made a strong case to become the Warriors' starter the rest of the season.

"I played out of my mind tonight, giving God all the credit for that," Pike said after the game.

Fourth-year head coach Bubba Williams expected to employ a two-quarterback system this fall with Pike and varsity returner Jake Wiser running the offense on alternating possessions. Pike ramped up the battle during offseason workouts and the competitive spirit between the two escalated when preseason practice began in late July.

Williams took notice and quickly knew both players had room to grow in his structured and systematic system.

Coaches have also recognized Pike's maturation from playing JV quarterback last season. The 5-foot-8, 160-pounder is coachable, energetic and brings a solid work ethic to practice each day.

"He has shown character through early adversity," said EW assistant coach Danny Merritt, who primarily works with the receivers. "He has the qualities to be a leader ... is becoming more assertive and he's a good teammate. (But) we are young with much work left to do."

Williams uses drills in practice each day that help slow down the game. Every player who touches the ball gets the necessary reps and refines the mechanics necessary to be effective at his respective position.

Merritt helps Pike break down game film so he can better understand opposing schemes. Varsity defenses are more complex and can -- at times -- deceive a quarterback, meaning he might see one thing when something else is actually occurring on the play. The game is faster. The players are bigger and stronger.

Eastern Wayne turned in a strong offensive performance against Greene Central, but Williams said there are plenty of areas to improve. Pike and the receivers recognized what the defense was giving them, and executed well. The ground game churned out 162 yards behind an offensive line that is steadily gaining confidence and developing chemistry.

"The key to our offense are the reads that you have to make on the running plays," Pike said. "That's the most solid kind of football you can play. If you're making the right option reads and your line is blocking, you can make it work.

"I'm just trying to do the best that I can for the team, come out (each day) and perform. With enough hard work, I believe we can do well."