SMITHFIELD — East Wake has been a highly competitive team for most of the 2012 high school football season.
Only one thing keeping the Warriors from being one of the elite squads in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference - the ability to consistently make the big plays when they needed to.
Friday night at Charles Tucker Stadium, you would never have known that malady existed in the Warriors, as East Wake came up with big play after big play in blasting Smithfield-Selma, 62-14.
Warriors’ coach Joe Poulnott wasn’t surprised by the effort. “No, I’m not really surprised,” he said. ”We’ve played such a tough schedule this year, and we played the top teams in the conference real tight all the way through - we just haven’t been able to come up with the big plays when we needed them.”
His team improved to 2-8 overall, 2-4 in the GNRC following the drubbing. Smithfield-Selma dropped to 1-9 overall, 1-5 in the GNRC. The Warriors close out the season this Friday night against Knightdale.
East Wake was effective almost every time it possessed the ball, scoring on its first four drives and five consecutive possessions in building a 34-7 second quarter lead..
Led by the legs of junior quarterback Alex Cowan, East Wake jumped to a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
Cowan dashed for 55 yards on five carries in the period, accounting for scores on runs of 16 yards on the opening drive of the game for the Warriors. He followed that with a one yard plunge on the second drive of the night.
In between those drives, the Warriors made its first big play of the night, a 56-yard punt return by Todd Mizzell, which provided East Wake a 14-0 advantage halfway through the opening quarter.
The Warriors were not stopped until the Spartans’ Quantez Leach intercepted a Cowan aerial with 33 seconds to play in the first half, returning it 33 yards for the final Smithfield-Selma score of the night, trimming East Wake’s lead to 34-14 at the half.
The Warriors continued to give the Spartans fits , with Damontay Rhem piling up 69 rushing yards on 12 carries throughout the contest, and Dominique Lane adding 56 yards on three attempts, 50 coming on a scoring burst up the middle on fourth-and one from midfield with just under two minutes left in the game.
But the Warriors feats were not limited to its ground game. In addition to Mizzell’s punt return, East Wake’s special teams produced a touchdown when Josh Stubbs took a fumble by the Spartans’ punter out of the air and dashed 35 yards to pay dirt.
The Warriors’ passing game also clicked, as Cowan was accurate on 5-of-10 passes for 177 yards, completing five of his first eight for 177 yards. Tyler Burton had a pair of grabs for a total of 106 yards.
The Warriors were not stopped until the Spartans' Quantez Leach intercepted a Cowan aerial with 33 seconds to play in the first half, returning it 33 yards for the final Smithfield-Selma score of the night , trimming East Wake's lead to 34-14 at the half.
But after a fumble, the SSS offense failed to score on its next five drives and couldn’t get inside of the East Wake 40-yard-line.
“We came out in the second half feeling like we still had a chance,” said Spartans coach David Lawhorn, “We were down 34-14, but Quantez had given us a lift, and we were moving the ball well until the fumble. That seemed to do the job, take the wind out of our sails right there.”
The Spartans' best drive of the night came in the second period, as they marched 78 yards in ten plays, culminated by a 14-yard TD pass from Chris Samuels to Leach, drawing Smithfield-Selma within 27-7.
Samuels connected on seven of his first 10 passes for 81 yards but finished, 9-of 23 for 89 yards.
“We were able to pressure on him in the second half,” Poulnott said. “When we did that, he had trouble getting off his throws, and our secondary played heads up defense.”