At the end of a football season, records seldom have meaning. However, East Wilkes would like to keep the 0 in its loss column through the end of the fall season.
The pursuit of perfection continues Friday night, as East Wilkes is set to host Swain County in the second round of the 1AA Football State Playoffs at 7:30 p.m. East Wilkes, 12-0 after defeating South Robeson in the first round of the playoffs last week, is hoping it can maintain that perfect record all the way through the finals. However, the team must take it one game at a time, and the match ahead leaves no easy task for the Cardinals.
“I think you could potentially see one of the more physical games that you’ve seen, maybe ever, between these two teams,” Head Coach J.K. Adkins said. “I think we’re really similar. Hard-nosed, disciplined, structured, and very physical. So it ought to be a very entertaining game.”
From here on out, the road gets tougher for East Wilkes, as it should, but the team has been battle-tested, facing Ashe County, Starmount and Wilkes Central in a three-week span late in the season. Sure, in some of those games the Cardinals fell behind but they persevered to come back and win those games and clinch the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference championship. Playing at home, or what’s been coined, the Ronda Ripple Effect has grown as the fans have come to realize what could come of this team.
“Our players are adapted to playing in front of a big crowd and an important environment, and that’s not going to come as a shock to them. You’re not going to get any more people as we had against Wilkes Central. It gives our good experience to be in that environment, not only just to be in that environment but we’ve been able to succeed in that environment and with that brings confidence,” Adkins said.
The big thing with this team is its much improved defense. Last year, the team allowed 360 points and were held to single digits six times. This year, the D allowed only 130 points, and have held opponents to single digits five times, all in shutout fashion. There’s been no shortage of strong defenders, with seniors Chris Dixon and Quincy Lineberger leading what they call Murk Squad.
Also turning heads is the sophomore quarterback. When a big leader went down in the first game of conference play, Bryce Vestal stepped in, and since then has improved greatly with offensive leaders like Camon Bryan, Andrew Nance and Deven Couch by his side. Whether it’s Vestal having a breakthrough year, or just the trio of great running backs and fullbacks is yet to be seen, but it doesn’t matter so long as they keep winning.
The winner of Friday’s game will move on to play the winner of the Mount Airy/Mitchell game on Nov. 27.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.