WILSON – There’s an old adage in the timeless vernacular known as coach speak that says “A team’s biggest game is its next game.”
As Eastern Wayne has dug itself out of an early 0-3 hole and into the midst of a four-game winning streak, the Warriors have earned the right to have the stakes increase each time they take the field.
Eastern Wayne has gone from watching multiple non-conference victories slip through its hands in painstaking fashion, to playing its best football of the season while climbing to the top of the Neuse 6 2-A Conference standings.
The Warriors (4-3, 2-0 Neuse 6 2-A) visit Wilson Beddingfield (4-3, 2-0) tonight at 7 p.m. with sole possession of first place in the Neuse 6 2-A on the line. Tonight’s game will be without question, the biggest game either team has played to date this season.
“I’m sure Beddingfield probably feels disrespected as far as the pre-season predictions, because they weren’t picked to finish in the top-three in our conference,” Eastern Wayne head coach Leander Oates said. “There will be no difference in how we approach this game. We’ve got one goal, and that’s to go in there and win. We’re glad that they set us for their homecoming, that just amplifies a lot of stuff that we feel like we can go in and spoil, We’re just going to go in there and make it a great moment.”
The game can be heard locally on FM 98.3 WGBR, or online at Goldsborodailynews.com, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Eastern Wayne has averaged 48 points per game during their current four-game winning streak. Sophomore quarterback Izeiah Oates, the son of head coach Leander Oates, has thrown 17 of his 20 touchdown passes in the last four games, while passing for 1,197 yards during that stretch. Junior receiver Trondell Smith has been Oates’ favorite target with 21 receptions for 450 yards and seven touchdowns.
“It’s one thing where (Izeiah) studies film the same amount that I do,” Leander Oates said. “I tell our guys all the time that watching film, use that time wisely. We try not to overdo it, because it can be misleading at times. The last two weeks, (Izeiah) has been able to make his own calls at the line. It’s great to be able to have a quarterback to make those adjustments and to be able to call things as he sees them. It’s great to have that, and then we can talk about it over dinner the next night.”
Eastern Wayne has been effective rushing the football as well, tallying 615 yards and eight touchdowns during its four-game winning streak. Junior Jalen Harris leads the Warriors with 403 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, Eastern Wayne has given up an average of 10 points a game over the last four weeks, while shutting out Washington County and Spring Creek. The Warriors have forced 10 turnovers during that span to go with 13 tackles for loss.
Senior defensive end Zayvion Davis leads Eastern Wayne with 39 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Junior defensive back Bobby Tann has recorded 31 tackles and two interceptions.
Beddingfield got off to its own slow start this season, and turned the ball over five times in its first four games, on its way to a 1-3 record.
During their current three-game winning streak, the Bruins have turned the ball over just twice. Beddingfield outscored its opponents 105-33 during its last three games, and averaged 353 yards per game.
“We started off with a couple of county rivals and then Nash Central, and we competed real well in those games, and kinda had some early-season mistakes,” Beddingfield head coach Ben Ellis said. “We had some untimely penalties and some turnovers that will get you to lose football games against really good teams.”
Beddingfield’s three-headed rushing attack of sophomore Jamauris Howard, junior Desmond Wooten, and senior Bryson Wagner have combined to rush for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns. The Bruins average 211 yards per game on the ground and over five yards per carry.
“Bryson, he’s just a hard-nosed runner,” Ellis said. “He does a lot of his running kind of down hill, and he makes it hard for people to tackle him. Desmond is more of your traditional power back, a big between the tackles kind of guy. Jamauris is just your do-it-all type guy, he finds ways to hit little creases, and get to the second level. He can line up in the slot, line up at running back and do it from many different spots on the field.”
Ellis anticipated the defense being the strength of Beddingfield’s team this season, and as the year has progressed, that has proven to be true. The Bruins have given up an average of 11 points in their last three games, while recording 16 tackles for loss, five sacks and five turnovers.
Junior linebacker Jayden Anderson leads Beddingfield with 77 tackles, while senior linebacker Christian Reyes has 75 tackles.
“Going into this year I felt like our defense could really be the strength of our team,” Ellis said. “It has been that way pretty much most of the year, and they’ve kind of come into their own the last two or three weeks. They’re just doing the little things right, tackling, playing assignment football and making sure we’re prepared for what we’re going to see each week.”