Southern Wayne finished with only one win last season and a load of the team’s struggles had to do with players fitting in their roles, but the Saints are using summer 7-on-7 competitions to iron out the kinks.
Coach Ronnie McClary Jr. and his Saints will head to Bryan Multisport Complex in Goldsboro Wednesday to compete in a 7-on-7 against other high schools. McClary talked about the work they have been putting in this summer. He is determined that competing in summer competitions will only benefit his guys saying, “During the offseason, we can teach a bit more and so during the season, it won’t be so tough to get the reps in. We have quite a few guys that were younger and we had to slow it down during the season, but now with those guys having experience, it gives us a chance to speed the game up a bit.”
“By competing in the 7-on-7 and going over a day of offense and day of defense, we’ll be going against great teams and that will allow us to get a lot of needed reps in,” McClary said. “It’s going to show us what we’re really made of and who we are as a team, it’s almost like a glorified practice just with strong competition.”
Southern Wayne lost six starters from last year’s team due to graduation, but the Saints were able to shuffle in a mixture of young guys throughout the season to make the reload an easier transition.
“It’s just about getting these younger guys in the right mindset with confidence behind them, they have already played so now it’s just about building off of that,” McClary said.
Seniors Jamari Leach and Jalen Thompson will be looked upon for leadership this upcoming season. Both were a part of the men’s basketball team. Leach is coming off of a knee injury that he suffered during basketball season and with the upcoming competitions, the two will soon get a chance to display their leadership on the field. Thompson and Leach are two of the main guys on the team, but McClary says he doesn’t think that they will be the only two to step up.
He talked about the impact that Xavious Speight and Mark Cramm will have as long as they focus on their development.
“If we can get Xavious Speight and Mark Cramm along with Thompson and Leach to develop well from this point all the way through the season, I think we’ll be a really tough team,” McClary said. “The 7-on-7’s will help us put them in game situations to see where their mentality is and see how they react.”
After the competition season, Southern Wayne will open up camp on Aug. 1 with their first game coming just 22 days later when they travel to Wilson for a matchup against Beddingfield. The conference season starts Sept. 27 when the Saints face D.H. Conley, but the coach says their nonconference schedule is no cakewalk. In their six nonconference games, four of the six finished near the top or at the top of their divisions last season.
Even though the Saints finished 0-6 last season in their conference, McClary plans to apply the pressure rather than going for easy wins.
“I’ve never wanted to play weaker teams to kick off the season. When you’re preparing for the playoffs, it helps when you have faced tough opponents. Every team on the nonconference schedule is a tough team and that is going to set us up for the difficult conference schedule and hopefully the playoffs,” McClary said. “We want to get our numbers up and be more aggressive and physical. Our guys are maturing and we just gotta build that confidence up. If we can get stronger and more aggressive, I’m confident that we will be really good. We just have to believe.”
Southern Wayne’s leadership will be tested as its first two games of the season will be on the road.