Southern Wayne showed glimpses of having a potent offense last season but with struggles in execution, the Saints just couldn’t get out of their own way. Head coach Ronnie McClary Jr. is determined to have his team clean up those mistakes and use their athletes in a high-paced balanced attack that will hopefully shake off last year’s 1-9 season.
In a tough Eastern Carolina 3A/4A conference, the Saints went 0-6 in conference play. Penalties, discipline, and execution were thorns in the sides of the Saints and McClary chalked those issues up to a lack of maturity. This year, the Saints will have a lot of returning pieces and he is optimistic that with the experience coming back, mental lapses will be few.
“We do have a lot of young guys but those guys have experience on the football field and so I think that will benefit when we go into difficult spots during the season,” McClary said.
The Saints were run-heavy last season and McClary has no intention of changing that. However, he has said that they will be a threat to pass the football as well depending on the looks from the defense.
“We like to be mobile with what we do on offense, we want to speed it up, we have guys like Jamari Leach, Mark Graham, Xavious Speight and Jalen Thompson who are all threats so I think once we figure out what the defense is trying to do, we can capitalize on their mistakes,” he said.
Though Southern Wayne is coming off a one-win campaign last season, McClary thinks that can be seen as a motivator for his team.
“One benefit to losing is that every single spot is open; there is no one holding a spot,” he said. “We challenge these guys to give their best because they could easily lose their spot and we have no bias to upperclassmen. If there is a freshman that is better than a senior, then we’re going to put them on the field. That forces these guys to come out here and work, also we know that a lot of teams will overlook us because we had one win last season, but we’re going to use that as fuel. We had more guys coming to work out in the spring and so guys are proving that they want it. It’s just about showing it on the field now.”
The Saints will be in their first action of the season on the road in Wilson when they take on Beddingfield Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. The Bruins are a consistent team that is well-coached and the team plays physically.
Coach McClary made it a priority to face tough opponents early on in the season, he said, because “having a tough non-conference will set you up well for conference play and hopefully the playoffs.” All but one team in the Saints’ non-conference schedule made it to the postseason last year.