08/10/18 — PREP FOOTBALL: Warriors' Oates depending on his linemen this season

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PREP FOOTBALL: Warriors' Oates depending on his linemen this season

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 10, 2018 5:51 AM



Eastern Wayne seeks an upward trend this fall.

And head football coach Leander Oates is confident it will begin with his offensive and defensive lines.

The two units bonded during spring ball and in summer workouts, and have held each other accountable on and off the practice field.

Oates is savoring the camaraderie.

"They made a commitment to stick together," Oates said. "They're young. I have shown them other guys [from Eastern Wayne] who are doing pretty big things and that they've got the opportunity to play on that next level.

"They have committed themselves along with some other guys who want to take the initiative to put themselves out there on the map."

The five-man front of Peyton Neiman, Zach Christensen, Quadrez Lassiter, Nicholas Barrett and Quiontay Foust will block for an offense that averaged 35.82 points a game -- the second-highest, single-season output in program history -- a year ago.

A three-year starter at center, Neiman (6-foot, 255 pounds) moves to guard for his senior campaign. Christensen (6-0, 225) slips into Neiman's spot. Lassiter, a 275-pound junior, mans the other guard position. Barrett (6-3, 305) and Foust (6-2, 285) are the tackles.

Despite the loss of all-everything Zeke Best, Oates didn't rip the spread package out of his notebook during the offseason.

Rising junior Desmond Vaughn and senior Andy Lewis have battled for the quarterback position throughout spring ball and during 7-on-7 passing games this summer. Vaughn is a lengthy individual, while Lewis provides a little more speed.

Either could camp out at receiver.

Their favorite target?

Well, it's Division I recruit Marcus Rouse, who turned heads at East Carolina and N.C. State during the summer after reducing his 40-yard dash to 4.4 seconds and improving his bench press to 275 pounds. The multi-sport athlete received an offer from Campbell, and is also on the recruiters' radars at Wake Forest and Furman.

Rouse hauled in 44 passes for 1,102 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.

"He's been a leader, making sure guys are accountable because he knows everyone is going to be focused on him," Oates said. "He's making sure his teammates step up in their different areas."

The backfield consists of speedsters Junious Tyson and Isaac Copeland. The two participated on the Warriors' indoor/outdoor track and field relays.

"I always tell them in practice, let's turn this thing into a track meet," Oates said.

Eastern Wayne's defense allowed 436 points last season.

While that didn't sit too well with Oates, he noted his team had a margin of minus-3.82 in the scoring column. The Warriors started 3-0, lost four straight, and went on another three-game win streak before enduring a season-ending loss to Western Alamance in the postseason.

Lassiter, Barrett, Foust and JaKwez Worsley (6-2, 230) control the trenches in Eastern Wayne's 4-3 scheme.

"For the most part, we have worked on starts, reaction and hand drills...learn how to be explosive on the count," Oates said.

The linebacking corps is comprised of John Buckram (6-2, 225), sophomore Tobias Roberts (5-11, 205) and senior Equan Tune (5-8, 175).

Oates said his blue-and-gold Warriors have achieved most of their preseason goals. He also noted that the players have come to him with individual goals of their own, which prompted the third-year head coach to request two things from each of them.

Get better every day, every Friday night.

Have no regrets.

"I always tell my team each year to be better than the last group," Oates said. "I remind them that you saw the last game. You know how you felt and you saw those guys crying because their season ended. You're going to be there soon.

"How do you want to be remembered your senior year?"