East Wake hadn’t defeated Garner in nine years. Knightdale hadn’t defeated Clayton since 2006.
So who would have dared bet the Warriors would topple the Trojans and the Knights would capsize the Comets in the same season?
It’s been a long time coming. I’ve seen East Wake defeat Clayton three times in the seven years I’ve covered the eastern Wake schools. But I had never seen Knightdale beat Clayton until Oct. 4 of this year, and I had never seen either local team defeat Garner until East Wake shocked the other blue-and-gold crew on Sept. 27.
Some things are different this season. As for Clayton and Garner, the historic league powers are in their first year under new head coaches – much like East Wake and Knightdale were three years ago.
The Knights and Warriors, on the other hand, are settling into their respective systems. This year’s seniors began playing football under East Wake coach John Poulnott and Knightdale coach Rob Senseney as freshmen.
You could say, “Well, they had to beat these teams eventually.” That may be true, but that takes plenty of credit away from the players, who are largely responsible for bringing a new feel to the field on Friday nights this season.
It helps that a plethora of this year’s key position players on both teams are experienced upperclassmen. That’s evidenced on the Knights squad by the fact the leading rusher on the team is not named Johnson.
Senior running back Nate Harvey, in five games this season, amassed 547 yards, an average of just more than 109 yards per game, and five touchdowns. Then came the Johnson brothers, also senior standouts, who you might have imagined would lead several categories like they have in recent years.
Marquavious Johnson, a double threat quarterback, ran for 255 yards and three scores in five games and led in passing with 321 yards. In that time, Marcell Johnson was third in rushing with 145 yards and three touchdowns, and third in receiving on the team. Daquan Lilly led that category with 150 yards and three snags in the end zone over five games.
East Wake’s 2-4 record through six weeks didn’t reflect the new-found excitement the Warriors provided in those games, which included one-possession losses at Millbrook and Heritage.
Junior halfback Damontay Rhem tallied 737 yards on the ground in the first six games, scoring seven times. Trent Evans, the Warriors’ hybrid quarterback, had thrown for 1,308 yards and added 449 yards rushing. The senior averaged nearly 293 all-purpose yards per game at that point.
Evans made use of his big targets. Wide receivers Quincy Jackson, a junior, and Evan Finch, a senior, combined for 814 receiving yards in the first six games. Finch had seven touchdown catches and Jackson hauled in four.
The are plenty of big games left for the Knights and Warriors.
East Wake has to prove it can maintain the level of play it showed in the early win over Garner when it travels to Clayton Oct. 25 and then to Knightdale Nov. 8. The Knights face the Garner Trojans at home Oct. 25 before hosting their high-output rival in the regular-season finale.
When was the last time both East Wake and Knightdale finished with winning records in the same season? It’s never happened since Knightdale fielded its first varsity team in 2005. They came close in 2006, when the Knights finished 6-6 and the Warriors went 9-3.
East Wake has some work ahead of it before getting back to a winning record, but has the tools for the job. It would be good to see the eastern Wake programs spike at the same time, and for their November meeting to mean more than just a win or loss.