High School Sports

Coaches point to senior leadership as a key to making the playoffs

Head coach Jason McGeorge leads a recent preseason football practice at the new Heritage High School in Wake Forest.
Head coach Jason McGeorge leads a recent preseason football practice at the new Heritage High School in Wake Forest. tlong@newsobserver.com

Checking in with area coaches about what went right and what needs to happen for their teams to advance in the playoffs.

Clayton coach Randy Pinkowski, whose 6-5 club travels to 11-0 New Bern: “Stats and fans tell the Eric Hoy story, but our game was won by the guys named Reggie Harper, Dakota Deal, Kyron Bennett, Christian Gaskins and Arnel Christian who made sure we had no pressure on our extra points or field goal and who minimized their return yardage while maximizing ours. And by coaches named Anthony Barbour and Alan West who called a great game and then had to drive us home, do the laundry and sweep the buses.”

Heritage coach Jason McGeorge, whose 8-3 team plays Wakefield (6-5) in the 4AA first round:

“We have had tremendous senior leadership and senior dedication. Players like Josh Murphy, Nick Fisher, Javari Crowther, Matt Donovan, and the entire class started out the summer with a plan and a goal. We stayed together throughout the summer, worked hard and developed a very strong bond.

“Our offensive and defensive lines have really played well all season. I think the most important part is that they play as a unit and take pride in one another. Our offensive line is led by Matt Donovan (who has started every varsity game for four years), Delshown Young and Josh Chicas. Our defensive line has been led by Jeff Gemmell, Justin Nwachukwu, and Anthony Nann.

“We need to execute on offense and defense, eliminate mistakes, missed assignments, turnovers and our offense has to score when we have opportunities. But most of all, we can’t change! We have to keep working each week and prepare for the opponent before us.”

Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas, whose 11-0 team is at home against Leesville Road (5-6):

“The big key for us is that the kids have bought in to each game and never really thought about what was going to happen down the road. We’ve had to buckle down sometimes, but we have played pretty well consistently on offense, on defense and in the kicking game.

“It hasn’t been easy and our first round matchup with Leesville isn’t going to be an easy game. I’ve been watching the tape and Leesville has some very good athletes. We need to keep taking one game a week.”

West Johnston coach Coach Jimmy Williams, whose 8-3 team plays 9-2 East Wake in a 4A game:

“Our key this year was that we were able to win close games and finish in the fourth quarter (the Wildcats beat Fuquay-Varina 31-27 and Clayton 27-25).

“For us to advance, we will need to control the ball more and be assignment proof.

Cleveland coach Scott Riley, whose 9-2 team is home against 7-4 Gray’s Creek:

“The team has really come together as a unit and they play for one another and hold each other accountable. That has driven our team to the playoffs.

“To advance we have to play our best football of the year.”

South Johnston coach Hunter Jenks, whose 5-6 team is home against 4-7 West Craven:

“Our senior class has been fantastic. They all come to work and improve every day. The only thing that matters to them is the greater good of the team. This senior class has been very fun to coach.

“In order for us to advance, we are going to have to win the turnover battle, win special teams and limit our pre- and post-snap penalties.”

Southern Durham coach Darius Robinson, whose 11-0 team is home against 6-5 Cardinal Gibbons in 3A:

“What needs to happen for us to advance? Don’t change our weekly preparation routine and believe in everyone that’s part of the program.”

East Wake coach John Poulnott, whose 8-2 club has a home rematch with West Johnston (8-3):

“Damontay Rhem, Tripp Harrington and our wide receivers keep making big plays for us offensively but if we are to make a deep run in the playoffs our running game has to be more consistent and our pass defense must step up its game. Greg Taylor has been a surprise player for us this year and getting him back defensively will go along way in stopping other teams’ passing attacks.”

Princeton coach Derrick Minor, whose 10-1 club is home against 3-8 Northampton in 1A:

“For us to do well in the playoffs we need to cut down on silly penalties. We cannot give away yardage.

“Cody Garner had led our defense the last couple of weeks and Jarod Pearce has been outstanding at offensive tackle. Adrian Whack is known for his play at linebacker, but he has really come through as a runner.”