State Playoff Preview: East hopes for historic ending in King
History is on the line times two in the first round of the NCHSAA 2-A state playoffs Friday night for East Davidson.
The school's football team has never had more than nine wins in a season and has never won a playoff game. At 9-2 and the No. 10 seed for the playoffs, the Golden Eagles will have an opportunity to notch two historic achievements at the same time. They must beat seventh-seeded West Stokes (8-3) on Friday to accomplish the feats.
“It is a big week for us,” said head coach Vance Hanner. “We have a great chance to win this week against an excellent West Stokes team. We scrimmaged them to start the season so we are familiar with them. The guys are excited, and if we were to get that 10th win it would mean a lot to this community and school. It would be one of the biggest wins ever in the history of our football program.”
East did meet the Wildcats during the preseason and fared well. But there is an important aspect of that scrimmage that most probably are not aware of. West Stokes was playing without 1,000-yard rusher Rashad Witherspoon, who has 15 touchdowns. He is a bruising back listed at 5-10 and 210 pounds. Fullback Malik Banner is built similar and blocks well to spring Witherspoon for big runs.
“On the tapes we have on him, he is big and powerful,” Hanner said. “They also have another kid that plays fullback and they are identical. Both are physical kids and they have enough speed to hurt you.”
West Stokes runs its offense mostly out of a Pro I formation, but can spread the ball out. Quarterback Alex Manley has connected on 75 passes for 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns. He takes care of the ball throwing just three interceptions.
Since losing tailback Bryce Bolen for the season in an ATV accident, East's offensive options have gotten slimmer. The solution has been getting the ball to senior Michael Ramos any way they possibly can. It has been working. Last week against West Davidson he rushed for 110 yards and caught four passes for 149 yards. He totaled three touchdowns. For the season he has toted the ball 558 yards on the ground and caught 21 balls for 596 yards. Ramos has 14 all-purpose touchdowns.
“He is just a special kid that is never in a bad mood and goes 100 percent every game and practice,” said Hanner. “He is just a solid character kid and a tremendous football player. I think he could play all 11 spots on offense and defense and be good at it.”
The average points scored and allowed by the two programs is almost identical. If any team has the advantage it would be the Wildcats having been frequent visitors to the playoffs. They won the 2-AA state championship in 2011.
“Being in the playoffs will be old hat for West Stokes and it is going to be new to our kids,” Hanner said. “I am hoping we take something away from the fact that we did play well against them in the scrimmage and that gives them the confidence to go and compete.”
Game time is 7:30 p.m. in King.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.