First-year South Johnston football coach Lee Webb gives his remarks on securing a winning season and what it means for a potential conference-title bid.
FOUR OAKS — Just as the band blared and students screamed to mark a triumphant 62-14 homecoming win over Southern Wayne Friday, South Johnston players showered first-year coach Lee Webb with water from the cooler.
It was a seminal moment for most of the Trojans players that had won just two games last year. South (6-1, 3-1 QCC) is now guaranteed a winning season for the first time in three years, with just three more dates left on its Quad County 3A Conference slate.
Webb credits his veteran players for their keen desire to win, despite the raucous pageantry throughout the week.
“Today was the best pregame we had all year. The guys were focused in and ready to go,” Webb said.
“Most of the time with homecoming festivities, my worry as a head coach is the distractions. But these guys, these seniors, they stepped up.”
Trojans upperclassmen quarterback Paul Olive was only required to complete six passes, but four of them went to the endzone. Fellow senior Brayden Barefoot led the way with 146 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries, while also catching a 6-yard score just before halftime to take a 42-8 advantage.
Jaydn McNeill, who was also crowned senior homecoming king, led five different Trojans with a TD reception, totaling a team-leading 63 yards while also adding a kickoff return midway through the second quarter.
“I love my school ... I love my student section (“Gang Green”). I love them all,” McNeill said.
The team’s junior class was just as important, especially on defense and special teams.
Defensive end Lucas Layman finished with a career-high four sacks, and now leads the team with 11.5 on the year.
Lance Parker also notched a sack, while also blocking a punt in the first quarter that was picked up by Braxton Ennis for a touchdown that made it 15-0.
“We spend 15 to 20 minutes a day on special teams. I believe that’s where you win ball games,” Webb said, also watching his group secure a safety in the second quarter.
“That was our focus this week, playing from the first snap to the last snap and these guys just did that.”
Parker, Ennis and Jamie Cole each tied for a team-high six total tackles.
The Trojans’ only setback this year was a 41-32 loss to Fike on Sept. 23, a defeat Webb feels his mentally tough group has since shrugged off.
“We said two weeks ago, when we lost to Fike, that we weren’t worried because we knew on Monday that we were gonna bounce back,” Webb said.
South has back-to-back wins and faces the top Quad County 3A teams in two of the final three weeks.
“We know the task coming up. We know we want to win conference,” McNeill said.
Hunt and West Johnston have a combined 6-1 mark in league play and are set to face off on Oct. 22.
The one-loss Trojans can make that contest irrelevant during its trip to Hunt this Friday, Oct. 15.
“I don’t care what team it is ... every week, we play for a conference championship. And that’s just the mentality we have to bring,” Webb said.
“We are planning for a conference championship the next three weeks.”
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-230-2040.