ERWIN — Triton High’s undefeated domination in the Eastern Carolina 3A Conference a year ago was overshadowed by Cleveland’s remarkable playoff run when the school’s first varsity football team reached the state semifinals.
Triton claimed a 41-28 regular-season win over Cleveland and the Hawks essentially were not challenged in other league games. Coach Joe McCullen’s team looked set for a long playoff run before losing to Cardinal Gibbons, 25-15, in the second round.
“Gibbons did a good job cutting off our outside running game and they were good enough inside that it was tough to get anything going there either,” said new coach Ashley Ennis, who was an assistant at Triton last year. “We had been able to run the ball all year and had built up some pretty big leads and didn’t want to throw the ball.
“Then we found ourselves in a position where we really needed to throw well and we made some mistakes. Gibbons is well coached and just did a tremendous job against us. ”
Most of the players who achieved a 10-2 record in 2011 are back. The club returns players who accounted for 3,400 yards in offense. The Hawks averaged 317 yards rushing, second to Leesville Road, and scored 36.2 points per game. They allowed only 12.2 points per game and held nine teams to less than 20 points.
Leading the veterans is league player of the year Dedrick Stacker (6-foot, 180 pounds), who rambled for 1,603 yards per game and averaged almost 12 yards per carry. Junior fullback Todd Penny added another 499 yards and back Brandon McLean chipped in with 382.
“Stacker is a special player,” Ennis said. “He has really good lower body strength, cuts well and has good vision once he is downfield. He also has breakaway speed (with sub 4.5-second times in the 40.)”
The Hawks will still line up in a Wing-T formation, but Ennis plans to add more passing from a shotgun formation. Quarterback Maurice McBryde threw for 595 yards in the run-first offense that attempted only 49 passes in 2011. McBryde is much improved.
“He was new at quarterback and we had a strong running game,” Ennis said. “We didn’t have to throw the ball a lot. I expect we’ll throw 20-25 passes a game this year.