FOOTBALL TAB -- Warriors need to find depth on the line
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 22, 2013 1:47 PM
Eastern Wayne, at first glance, appears to be a team with the ingredients necessary to be successful in 2013.
Dig a little deeper and the cause for concern in head coach Bubba Williams' voice becomes understandable.
The Warriors return plenty of talent at the skill positions.
Finding depth on the offensive and defensive lines has been a struggle throughout the summer. With just three returning starters on the offensive line and two returners up front defensively, the ability to match opponents' physicality could make or break Eastern Wayne's season.
"We don't have a lot of depth up front," Williams said. "Those guys are working to get better and to develop some chemistry. It's all about learning to work together. You can have all the skill players in the world, but if you can't block a soul you're not going to beat many teams that way."
Guards Quadrick Williams and Darius Evans, and tackle Shaquan Bell return from last season. Junior quarterback Mitch Pike is back to guide an offense that averaged 19 points per game in 2012.
Pike has continued to grasp the intricacies of the read option, but his ability to quickly make decisions on where to go with the football is a work in progress. Pike threw for 1,076 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and his recent performance at a camp in Myrtle Beach earned him a selection to the Offense-Defense All-American Showcase in late December in Orlando.
"The biggest thing in the option is just making the right reads," Pike said. "As the quarterback I have to read the defensive end and make good decisions. Being selected for the Offense-Defense game really gave me a lot of confidence and I'm just trying to provide some leadership for this team."
Pike has no shortage of weapons at his disposal.
Running backs Craig Smith and Lavoris Vick -- along with wide receivers Dayshawn Pridgen, Deshawn Boudy and Alex Davilla -- all return.
Eastern Wayne went just 2-4 in East Carolina 3-A Conference play last season and scored 13 or fewer points in four of those six games.
"Mitch has had a good summer and the biggest thing with him is continuing to learn to make the right reads," Williams said. "Dayshawn (Pridgen) is another kid that has worked hard and had a good summer. I'm excited about our skill guys, and hopefully we can block up front and allow them to make some plays."
The secondary has been the defensive bright spot for the Warriors this summer.
Pridgen and fellow corner Terrell Downs along with safeties Jake Wiser and Chris Allen have performed well in passing league games and scrimmages.
"Our secondary has covered well in passing leagues and scrimmages," Williams said. "The biggest thing for them is learning to play the run. It's one thing in passing leagues to play just play the pass, but when you line up 11 on 11 and you have to play the run and the pass, that's a different story."
Returning linebackers Derius Evans, Jaelan Whitaker, Darryl Pittman and Chris Pridgen are being counted to provide run support and a steady pass rush as the defensive line develops.
While the results may not have been there, Williams believes he saw improvement in his defense toward the end of 2012. Building on that development while continuing to improve is critical against Eastern Wayne's difficult schedule.
"Toward the end of last season I felt like we pursued the ball better and we were able to blitz more because the defense was finally able to handle being asked to do more," Williams said. "We have to continue to learn to fly to the football and move forward as a defense. We have to continue to learn to be able to do more as a defense when they're asked to."
Colton Jones is back as the Warriors' place kicker and is described by Williams as his, "most improved player." Pike is expected to handle the punting duties.
Eastern Wayne opens its season at former Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference foe North Lenoir on Friday. The Warriors also face Goldsboro, Red Springs and Greene Central during the non-conference portion of their schedule.
Williams' team begins play Sept. 27 against South Central in the newly-realigned Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference. New Bern, J.H. Rose and D.H. Conley are newcomers to the league. The Warriors, Southern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock are holdovers from the original ECC which began play in 2001.
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