Much of the group that started East Wake’s resurgence to its old winning ways a couple of football seasons ago walked away from the school as graduates in June.
“We’re only returning four starters on offense and three on defense, and they’re not necessarily starting in the position they played in last year,” Poulnott said.
The program bid farewell to 31 seniors in all, most of whom were part of East Wake’s 10-3 (6-1 Greater Neuse River 4A) team in 2014 and 7-5 (5-2) team last year. That group snapped a four-year playoff drought, making it to the postseason each of the past two seasons.
Much of the team’s success this year, Warriors coach John Poulnott said, will hinge on senior Mikekale Engles, who with 675 yards and eight touchdowns last season was second only to former star quarterback Tripp Harrington in rushing.
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“(Engles) is going to be a main stable of our running game,” Poulnott said. “With him playing linebacker too, we’re going to have to be very strategic about how much play he’s going to get on one side or the other.”
Who will start at quarterback?
It’s a timeworn question in the realm of football at any level, but a relevant one considering the impact of the loss of Harrington (Norfolk State), the dual-threat quarterback who accounted for nearly 3,700 all-purpose yards and 40 touchdowns last fall.
The good news for the Warriors is they found time here and there over the past two seasons to work backup QB Tyshawn Milam into the game. He often came in at corner, safety or receiver, as well.
Milam had a promising night in a win over Clayton last September, rushing for 98 yards and one touchdown.
“He has good arm strength, too,” Poulnott said. “His main attribute I like the most is he reads whatever defensive player we’re targeting better than some of our past quarterbacks. He baits them a lot better – does a better job influencing a defensive player to move so he can take the ball with more assurance that player is gone.”
What’s the expected team strength? Weakness?
Despite its youth and questions surrounding its depth, East Wake is “very athletic, skill-wise,” per Poulnott. But he said the team is “very young” on both lines.
He said it will be interesting to see how prepared his sophomores and juniors are in the early weeks of the season.
Can a younger unit get East Wake back to the playoffs?
Poulnott, who enters his seventh year at East Wake, is no stranger to the reloading phases every program is bound to experience to some degree.
He’s convinced his team can finish near the top of the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference and extend the program’s playoff streak to three years, pending a limited number of internal setbacks.
“We’ll have to stay healthy,” he said. “There’s not a lot of depth. Our numbers are down and we’re young. We’re going to have to avoid youthful mistakes – turnovers and penalties.”
More on the Warriors
Last year: 7-5 (5-2 Greater Neuse River 4A), first round 4A playoffs
Five-year average: 5-6 (4-3)
Preseason N&O rank: Unranked
Offense: Multiple spread, pistol
Defense: Multiple 3-man front
Coaches: John Poulnott (HC/OC), Edwin Campbell (DC, DB), Jeremiah Holland (DL), Mariki Webb (DL), Jacob Wood (LB), Jackson Glasgow (OL), Dan Carter (QB/WR), Kevin Crudup (RB)
Contributors: Tyshawn Milam (Sr., QB), Mikekale Engles (Sr., RB/LB), Justin Harrington (Jr., WR/S/QB), Bishop Hill (Jr., WR/S/QB), Daniel Anderson (Jr., SR/SS), Malik Hankins (Jr., SS/OLB/WR), Dorez Wynn (So., TE/LB); Brett Hocutt (Sr., TE/DE); Jalen Hand (Sr., SR/CB), Anthony DeLoatch (So., DB), Matthew McIntyre (So., DB/WR); Rob Snead (Sr., C/NT), James Horton (Sr., DL/OL)
The main number: 5 – the Warriors had seven games last season in which they won or lost by 5 or fewer points.
Aug. 19 vs. Millbrook, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 at Fike, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 2 at Cary, 7 p.m.
Sep. 9 vs. Corinth Holders, 7 p.m.
Sep. 16* vs. Clayton, 7 p.m.
Sep. 23* at Garner, 7 p.m.
Sep. 30* vs. West Johnston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7* at Rolesville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 BYE
Oct. 21* vs. Southeast Raleigh, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* vs. Knightdale, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* at Harnett Central, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game