Warriors, Saints face must-win situation on gridiron
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 5, 2012 1:48 PM
Coaches tend to shy away from putting extra emphasis on one particular game, and contend that each contest has its own importance in some fashion.
But county archrivals Eastern Wayne and Southern Wayne just can't avoid the "must-win" scenario when they meet tonight at the Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex. The winner stays in the playoff hunt, while the loser's playoff hopes will certainly begin to vanish.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
"You hate to call any game a 'must-win' and put your back against the wall, but I think it's a very important game for us going forward if we want any chance of making the playoffs," Southern Wayne head coach David Lee said.
Each team looks to halt a two-game skid and notch their first win in Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference play this season.
The Warriors (2-4 overall) have had two weeks to prepare for the Saints' Wing-T offense, heal some key players, work on tackling and wash away the bitter taste from a lopsided shutout loss to state-ranked Cleveland 14 days ago. Guard Quadrick Williams, safety Marquell Whitaker and two-way starter Lamorris Pridgen are expected to suit up for the game.
Fourth-year head coach Bubba Williams has been pleased with the team's mood and work ethic during the much-needed layoff.
"After what happened to us the last time we were on the field, you want to prove that's not you," Williams said. "I think our kids are looking forward to getting back out there and making the plays they know they can make.
"Our kids have stayed hungry and it has been a competitive open-week practice, one of the better we've had since I've been here."
Nearly 90 percent of the Saints' offensive production has come on the ground this season. Andrew Matthews ranks among the area's top 10 ball carriers with 607 yards and six touchdowns. Brion Kornegay has supplied 320 yards and four TDs on 69 totes.
Southern Wayne has rushed for 1,144 yards and thrown for just 138 as a team through six games.
"They've got a young group of kids like us," Williams said. "We have to battle, execute offensively and defensively, and hopefully everything will turn out good for us. We need to get back some confidence."
The Saints need boost of self-esteem, too.
They'll handle the chore of containing the Warriors' balanced option offense. Quarterback Mitch Pike has thrown for 696 yards and seven touchdowns, and has completed at least one pass to eight different receivers this season. He's added 167 yards and four TDs on the ground.
Deshawn Boudy and Pridgen have been Pike's main targets. The duo has combined for 404 yards on 16 catches.
"I do feel like we can match up against them," Lee said. "Any time a team runs the option, that creates timing issues. First and foremost, we have to defend the option whether it's the dive, quarterback or pitch.
"Their receivers have good skills ... fairly tall and athletic. If our defensive backs don't go up and challenge on jump balls, they will get to them I'm sure, so that concerns me a little bit."
The Saints struggled on defense against Cleveland last week. Lee sat some players due to disciplinary reasons, which forced changes in several positions on both sides of the ball.
Lee's squad moved the chains consistently on offense.
Southern Wayne leads the series 7-4 since 2001, but the teams have split their last six meetings. Eastern Wayne won 17-16 at Little Big Horn a year ago.
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