East Wake expects to make more big plays and score more points this season with an offense that is filled with players who are fast and elusive.
“An explosive offense,” Warriors coach John Poulnott said of his team. “When we line up with our top six guys, I think they’re all guys who can take that 5-yard play and make it a 20- or 30- or maybe something even more explosive.”
Wide receivers Quincy Jackson (6-foot-4, 194-pound senior) and Tyler Burton (5-11, 175, Jr.), slot receivers Chris Ajagbawa (5-11, 165, Jr.) and DeAndry Holmes (5-11, 170, Jr.), running back Damontay Rhem (6-0, 210, Sr.) and quarterback Tripp Harrington (6-1, 180, Jr.) are capable of creating quick strikes.
Poulnott said the game plan might shift dramatically from week to week, depending on the way teams choose to defend the Warriors, who were 4-7 overall, 3-3 in the Greater Neuse 4A Conference in 2013.
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“We could be 50-50 run-to-pass,” Poulnott said. “We could be 70-30 run-to-pass, we could be 30-70 run-to-pass. We are very multiple in our attack. We try to exploit what the defense is giving us.”
Harrington’s decision-making will be integral to success. A dual-threat quarterback, he is a vital part of the running game, Poulnott said. The Warriors want to get him to the edge.
Rhem rushed for 1,360 yards and caught passes for 630 more, and will be expected to carry a load again.
The Warriors’ overarching goal for 2014 is to get any one of the skill position players – whether it’s Harrington, Rhem or one of the receivers – open in space as often as possible.
“It’s going to be hard to match up against all six of our athletes,” Poulnott said.
Defensively, the Warriors will feature more of a reactive platoon than their attacking offensive counterpart. Poulnott, a former defensive coordinator, wants his team to take away the opponent’s top four running plays and its top four passing plays. He also wants to slow the opponent’s most dominant individual on each of those plays.
“We want to pressure them into doing what’s not their priority,” Poulnott said.
Seniors Jalon Lindsay and Alex Allen are the front-runners to become the starting safety pairing. Senior Greg Taylor, who is also likely see time as a slot receiver, is in good position to land a starting role at cornerback. A couple of East Wake basketball players are even in the mix, as they attempt to make the transition from the hardwood to the gridiron.
Poulnott said his club’s firepower should keep things interesting. Despite being 4-7 last year, the Warriors battled a strong Millbrook team in a 20-14 loss and showed their explosiveness in a 54-40 victory against Garner.
“If we can sneak up on Garner,” Poulnott said, “we can do the same thing Knightdale did last year.”
Knightdale won the Greater Neuse 4A title and finished 11-2.