Last season East Clarendon High School's football team won its last two regular season games, but just missed out on the playoffs. The Wolverines were on the outside looking in with a 4-way tie for the final spot.
That late run put a fire in the …
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That late run put a fire in the Wolverines' bellies this offseason and inspired an excellent season in 2019.
EC didn't have to worry about any tiebreakers for the playoffs this season as it finished the year with four straight wins and a 7-3 record.
EC will travel to Dorchester on Friday to take on Woodland in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.
Head coach Scott Cook knows how important those two wins last season were and his Wolverines are still seeing the benefit from that momentum.
"It carried over to the summer, because I saw the hurt in the guys' eyes when I told them we weren't in the playoffs. I saw how hard they worked in the spring and the summer to get here, and they've earned this right," said Cook. "We always talk about going out and getting what you deserve, no one will give you anything, you have to get what you deserve and they've deserved this year. They worked their behinds off to get this."
Offensively, East Clarendon has had a number of major contributors to this spectacular season. Marques Webb finished the regular season just shy of 1,000 yards on the ground, rushing for 960 yards and nine touchdowns. Tyjhai Calvin was a swiss army knife for the Wolverines, rushing for 310 yards and five scores to go along with 316 receiving yards and another four touchdowns. He even added a touchdown as a passer. Quarterback Cub Cook had an electric regular season, passing for 716 yards and 10 touchdowns, while adding another 462 yards and five scores on the ground. Defensively, TJ Owens leads the team with 67.5 tackles, while Calvin Wilson and Keyon Wilson each gabbed a team-high three interceptions.
While the Wolverines enter the playoffs with a ton of energy and confidence, Coach Cook's biggest challenge is finding the balance of letting EC enjoy its first playoff berth in his tenure while making sure it doesn't get too excited on the field.
"They've still got some energy, they've got some excitement," said Coach Cook. "We've scaled back a little bit just because we don't wanna burn them out, wear them out right now, but their energy is exciting and the energy around the school is exciting, the community is excited. It's an exciting time.
"It's going to be a long ride, so we're really going to have to get out there and loosen up," continued Cook on the challenges the team will face on Friday. "This is an emotional game and there haven't been many times they've been able to do this, so I want them to enjoy the moment and take advantage of every opportunity they've got."
The Wolverines will have a tough matchup ahead of them against Woodland, which comes in with a 6-3 record. Woodland has a ton of weapons offensively. Keyaun Johnson has been explosive at quarterback, showing an ability to run and pass in an offense that scored more than 30 points in all but two of its games this season. His top target has been Lavel Davis, who will play football at Virgina next season. Jevon Walker has also made an impact in the passing game, while Markaden Bryant and Tony Glover have both been dominant on the ground.
"They can throw the ball well, they can run it, they can catch it; they're a pretty solid team," said Coach Cook. "What we've gotta do is control the ball on offense and when we are on defense, we need to play our responsibilities, make sure we're tackling, group tackling, and don't get caught up in the moment. Just make one play at a time."
Woodland is nearly as strong on the defensive side of the ball as it is on offense. It's led by K'Ron Ferrell, who is headed to play at Appalachian State next season. Coach Cook said his team's No. 1 goal is to just find the best way to get the ball to its skill players and let them do the rest.
"They're pretty good on defense too. They're fast, they get after the ball," said Coach Cook. "We've just gotta find a way to get the ball in Tyjhai's hands, get the ball in Keyon's hands and Marques' hands, all of our skill guys. We have to find a way to get the ball in their hands."
East Clarendon is gunning to keep their season alive on Friday night, but Cook is also able to see just how important it is for his team to finally get a taste of the playoffs at all.
"We just want them to enjoy that environment. To get on that bus and travel for a Friday night game," said Cook. "There's what, 16 teams left in 2A in the lower state? And we're one of the last ones that are in there, so we're going to enjoy every moment of it."
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