Sports: Warriors head to St. James a day early for rivalry game
By Roger Greene
After starting the 2011 season in Week 0, the Waccamaw High football team will see another early kickoff at neighborhood rival St. James: tonight at 7.
The possible threat from Hurricane Irene forced many games in Georgetown and Horry counties to be rescheduled, much as Warriors coach Tyronne Davis expected when he got a look at the forecast.
“Moving the game to Thursday wasn’t a surprise,” said Davis, whose squad routed Latta 54-21 last week. “The safety of the players and fans comes first. Once everyone saw what could happen with the weather, you knew the necessary precautions were going to be taken.”
When the Waccamaw- St. James series was first proposed, hopes were it would quickly establish itself as one of the better rivalries in the area. It hasn’t disappointed.
After dropping the first two games to the Sharks in the series, the Warriors have rebounded to win three straight. All of the games have been decided by eight points or less and an estimated crowd of 2,000 packed Warrior field last year to see Waccamaw score a 14-6 victory.
“The Waccamaw game was one of the first I heard about when I was looking into the job,” said the Sharks’ first-year coach, Mark Fischer. “The schools are similar and, being so close, many of the kids know each other. All the elements are there to make it a good rivalry.”
While last week’s game revealed few surprises on the scoreboard, there was a noticeable difference on the field. Instead of using the spread offensive scheme they had worked on much of the preseason, the Warriors offense was aligned in a three-back, power set for much of the contest.
The result was 294 yards rushing and five different running backs finding the end zone. Daniel Poinsette led the way on the ground with 114 yards rushing and three
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touchdowns, Nick Davis added 87 yards and one score and Jalen Simmons totaled 73 yards and a pair of TDs.
“We were trying to take advantage of what Latta was giving us,” Davis said. “We thought we could run the ball on them and that is what we wanted to do. Our interior linemen blocked well and we were able to move the ball between the tackles.”
Fischer was impressed with what he saw from Waccamaw’s running game.
Waccamaw has “some hard, high-knee runners,” Fischer said. “When they hit the seam or get to the edge, you better be able to get several people on them. They’re all capable of breaking a tackle.”
The Warriors threw the ball just four times against Latta. But Davis said that despite favoring the use of a three-back alignment in that contest, the spread sets haven’t been removed from the Warriors’ gameplan.
Against a St. James defense that likes to crowd the line of scrimmage, the passing game might be more of an option this week.
“They’ll put seven or eight people up front and dare you to throw it,” Davis said. “We know we’re going to have to do some different things this week. We’re still going to use our spread. We don’t want to be one dimensional. We know we have to be balanced.”
St. James fell 23-14 in Fischer’s debut against Loris last week, with five turnovers undoing many of its efforts. Still, the Sharks managed to pile up some impressive numbers, starting with running back Gregg Johnson’s 167 yards rushing.
Johnson “fits into their scheme well,” Davis said. “He’s very physical, and that style goes along with the type of power running game they want to use. The challenge for us is to line up and match their aggressiveness and try to keep them from pounding the ball at us.”
Fischer came to St. James from Louisa County (Va.) High School. He led his teams to a couple of undefeated seasons during his tenure and was named as Virginia’s Coach of the Year by the Associated Press in 2006.
He has inherited a St. James squad that has won just 16 games in seven seasons. Fischer has brought a host of new ideas with him to energize the program, starting with the “Midnight Madness” practice the first day of fall camp and the pre-game carnival prior to all St. James home games.
“I’m happy with how things have gone so far,” Fischer said. “The players have bought into what we are doing. But this is a process. We’re not just trying to win one game, we’re trying to build a program.”
Davis believes Fischer’s methods are paying dividends.
“St. James is a very improved team,” Davis said. “They are very disciplined in what they do. They are a tough team to prepare for in a short week. We’ve been watching a lot of film and trying to get ready.”