Depth is not an issue at defensive end for the Heritage football team.
The Huskies (9-3) start juniors Joe Kane on the left and Randy Davis on the right. Senior tackle Tyree Thomas can slide over when needed. Add to the mix starting tailback junior Ricky Person Jr. – a pass-rush specialist – and you can see why defensive line coach Lawrence Thames is all smiles heading into Friday’s second-round game at Pinecrest (10-2).
“It’s very special,” Thames said after Heritage’s 17-14 victory over Holly Springs in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA playoffs Friday, the first postseason win in school history. “At the high school level, it’s hard to find two good defensive ends. We’ve got that and more.”
The two starters are thankful for each other’s presence.
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Kane (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) has received a scholarship offer from Wofford, while generating interest from Duke, East Carolina, Wake Forest and others. His third-quarter sack gave him 16 ½ for minus-122 yards.
“Randy, he really gets off the ball very well,” Kane said. “He has really good hands and when they run the ball to his side, he’s going to make the play because that’s what he’s got to do. … People are watching film and they see one side of the field and they say ‘We’ve got to run away from him.’ But then the other side of the ball is something you don’t mess with either. We’re all coming for you.”
Davis (6-1, 220) had two tackles for a loss last Friday, giving him 14 on the year to go with 6.5 sacks.
“Joe is a great player,” Davis said. “I don’t have to worry about his side. He doesn’t have to worry about my side. We just trust each other.”
Heritage head coach Dwayne Washington, no stranger to defense as a 12-year NFL star with 31 career interceptions, knew his team’s successes rested with defense.
“For us all year, that’s been an emphasis to keep developing our defensive line,” Washington said. “Coach Thames has done a heck of a job. He’s on those guys so hard. And I think that’s how you’ve got to be if you are going to have a championship defense.”
The ends were integral in three huge stops last Friday.
The Golden Hawks reached the Heritage 2 with 2.2 seconds left in the first half, down 10-7. Running back Broderick Taylor took the handoff and went inside to avoid the ends. Instead of a hole, linebacker Austin Dowler greeted Taylor and drove him into the turf inches from the end zone.
“It was the biggest play of the game,” linebacker Drake Thomas said. “We don’t get that stop, who knows how the second half goes?”
Heritage took the final lead with 6 minutes, 9 seconds left, but it was far from safe.
Holly Springs drove down to the Huskies 27, where it faced 4th-and-2.
“I could tell by the way the quarterback was eyeing me down that he was about to roll out and try and make a play,” Kane said.
Kane chased quarterback Austen Weigers, hitting him as the sophomore lofted a pass up for grabs. It was picked off by Thomas.
The Golden Hawks had one last shot, but on the game’s final play Weigers was sacked by Person to set off a Huskies’ celebration.
“I’m so glad that’s over,” Washington said of the program’s first postseason win. “I told the guys after the game that that was not our end goal to win a playoff game. I mean come on. Our end goal is to be in the big dance and get a ring. We’ll get them refocused on Monday and get ready for another great team in Pinecrest.”