Hine Reshaping Saints’ Program One Day at a Time

Hine Reshaping Saints’ Program One Day at a Time

DUDLEY – What may have seemed like a routine 7-on-7 session in the scorching heat of a relentless North Carolina summer to some coaches, was a glimpse inside the soul of the program that first-year Southern Wayne head coach Matt Hine had inherited.

Hine watched in June as his collection of varsity and junior varsity players initially struggled to keep pace in 7-on-7 sessions against some of Eastern North Carolina’s elite high school football programs. It marked Southern Wayne’s first trip to the annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp held at the University of Mount Olive.

“We took the kids to the FCA team football camp at the University of Mount Olive this June,” Hine said. “We were there with some heavyweights, we were there with Cleveland and East Duplin, and some very strong and very established football programs. The first two or three 7-on-7’s we did the first day we were there, you could see we were a little bit like a deer in headlights against them.”

As the opening day of camp progressed, Hine witnessed something from his players, that had evaded the Saints during his days as defensive coordinator. In the midst of adversity, rather than hang their heads and fold, the Saints chose to collectively grit their teeth and take steps toward proving they were no long the same old Southern Wayne.

“Later in that day we got a chance to take one of those real powerhouse teams, but all of the sudden there we were winning a 7-on-7 against one of those powerhouse teams,” Hine said. “At that moment, I knew that I had kids that were fighters. They were going to battle and they weren’t going to quit. To take our kids for the first time to that team camp, and to be able to battle and ultimately win against a real powerhouse, I knew I had kids that were buying into what we were preaching.”

Hine witnessed that change in mindset come full circle in last week’s season opener as the Saints erased a 20-0 deficit en route to a thrilling 22-20 win over visiting Eastern Wayne. Southern Wayne snapped the Warriors’ 12-game winning streak in the series, and the Saints beat Eastern Wayne for the first time since 2010.

Perhaps the moment in Hines’ first victory as a head coach that most personified the early makings of a culture change in Dudley, came as Eastern Wayne had the ball at the Southern Wayne 5-yard line, trailing 22-20 with 9.9 seconds left. Saints’ defensive end E’lla Boykin’s tackle for a loss on Warriors’ running back Trondell Smith preserved the win.,

“You could see it last year at times with us on the field, there has been such a lack of success here and so many hard times that those kids had faced, I knew that confidence and body language needed to be worked on, on a daily basis,” Hine said. “Last Friday night, even in the second quarter when our kids had made enough mistakes that now you’re staring a 20-0 deficit in the face, their attitude and their body language stayed positive and upbeat. You could just see that carry them through in that game.”

Another key ingredient toward the gradual culture change underway at Southern Wayne has been a renewed commitment to the weight room. Hine has watched his players slowly transform their physiques in the weight room which has led to increased strength on the field, particularly on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

“The guys playing key positions for me this year I knew weren’t just great athletes, but I knew they were high character guys and who were going to be leaders and you would be able to install what you want to see as a head coach as your culture,” Hine said. “You could also see the great job Coach Nick Smith was doing with the kids in the weight room. You could see the gains the kids were making in the weight room, which is something as a head coach you know you need to have that built into your program.”

Southern Wayne’s win over Eastern Wayne improved the Saints’ record to 3-1 against Wayne County opponents since the start of the 2022 season. Hines and his squad will face another county rival on Friday night as they travel to Goldsboro.

Goldsboro and Southern Wayne first met in football in 1966. The Saints have won the last two meetings, while the two teams have split the last 18 contests since 2004. As Hine and his staff work to reshape Southern Wayne’s program one day at a time, continuing to stockpile wins against county rivals goes a long way toward cementing a rejuvenated atmosphere in Dudley.

Southern Wayne also visits Wayne County opponent on Sept. 8.

“I think (success versus county opponents) has played a huge part in it,” Hine said. “I think we walked out of our non-conference schedule last year certainly thinking very positive about the direction that the program was moving in. Then we hit our conference and we certainly reverted to some of our old attitudes here. As we’ve won three out of those four Wayne County games, that’s something the kids certainly take a lot of pride in. With the most recent one, that breaks a real long streak of losing year after year, after year. There certainly is a lot of pride that our team takes in the success we’ve had against Wayne County teams.”