Eastern Wayne defense must stop the run ... again
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 22, 2013 1:48 PM
Eastern Wayne, for the second consecutive week, knows it faces a larger, physical opponent intent on running the football.
The Warriors hope they can duplicate last week's success when they play host to Southern Nash in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A (small-school) playoffs tonight.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
The Firebirds average 251 yards per game rushing, and have amassed 3,014 yards and 33 touchdowns on the ground this season. They have tallied 250-plus rushing yards in seven of 12 games.
Richard Hall leads Southern Nash's attack with 900 yards and eight TDs. Jaquay Mitchell has supplied 489 yards, while Taylor Finch has added 366.
Southern Nash (9-3 overall) uses multiple formations that range from a two-tight end set to five wide receivers.
That presents a challenge for Eastern Wayne's smaller, faster defensive line. The unit held West Carteret's ground attack to 144 yards -- 70 yards below their regular-season average.
The Warriors also forced two turnovers.
"At times last week some our guys were getting triple-teamed," Eastern Wayne head coach Bubba Williams said. "Southern Nash doesn't do that as much, but they're awfully big. We have to get off blocks, and get in the gaps and play. We can't let them lean on us."
Eastern Wayne (9-2) welcomed back a big offensive weapon -- 6-foot-3 receiver Malik Richard. The junior led the Warriors with 20 receptions for 392 yards and three touchdowns before getting sidelined with a finger injury.
Despite missing his top receiver, junior quarterback Mitch Pike has flourished in recent weeks due to his decision making and poise in the pocket. He threw for 158 yards and three TDs against West Carteret, and has piled up 488 yards and nine TDs total in his last three games.
"Having Malik back changes a lot," Williams said. "There aren't many defensive backs that can't jump with him. At the same time, we can still go to the smaller guys in the screen game. Mitch continues to get better every game and he's making better decisions with the ball."
Dayshawn Pridgen and Deshawn Boudy have filled in well in Richard's absence. Pridgen caught five passes for 105 yards and three touchdowns a week ago. Each has proven to be effective in turning screen passes into big plays.
Sophomore running back Kamone Best continues to nurse a sore ankle, and was limited to 45 yards on 10 carries last week. Seniors Chris Allen and Lavoris Vick handled the majority of the carries against West Carteret.
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