This year is easily the best for East Wake High School football since a 9-3 campaign in 2006. That was the last time a Warriors crew posted more than four wins in a season.
East Wake opened this season with a 7-2 record, including a 4-1 mark in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference. Its losses through nine weeks came at the hands of two of The News & Observer’s top-five teams, Wake Forest and Garner.
Since John Poulnott’s first year as head coach in 2010, the program has slowly progressed, going 2-9, 3-8, 3-8 and 4-7 last season. A more competitive team in 2013, a season highlighted by an upset win over Garner, foreshadowed things to come.
This season’s turnaround prompts memories and a great deal of optimism for a program looking to get back to the good old days – those most recently being the 2002-06 seasons. In that time, East Wake had an appearance in the Eastern Regional final (fourth round of state playoffs) in 2002, produced conference titles in 14-1 (2002) and 11-1 (2004) seasons, and never finished worse than 8-4 (2005).
Keep in mind that stretch was preceded by a 6-6 season in 2001, and 3-8 season in 2000.
East Wake’s last trip to the state playoffs was in 2009 – the 14th and final year for coach Jimmy Williams, who is now at West Johnston. The Warriors were defeated by Southern Durham in the first round, capping a 4-8 season that year.
Prior to the final two games of the regular season (last Friday’s game at Harnett Central, this week’s hosting Knightdale) I figured it would be a good time to throw Poulnott some reactionary- and expectations-type questions. After all, the Warriors had a chance to win those two games and enter the state playoffs with a 9-1 record (for seeding purposes), which would likely be good enough to host in the first round.
Here’s what I asked, and what he had to say: