SWE faces 'biggest challenge' in Tarboro
By PATRICK MASON
Thursday, November 8, 2018
As Jonathan Cobb was answering a question during a SouthWest Edgecombe football practice this week, the product of an offensive revolution more than a year in the making was taking shape.
Receiver Keishon Porter was running routes, and quarterback Jayden Lewis worked on keeping his eyes downfield. And when Lewis zipped a ball that stuck to Porter’s hands like flies on flypaper, a half-smile appeared on Cobb’s face.
It was as if the coach still had to be pinched back to reality. After 10 games and a 9-1 record, the big plans Cobb had for the offense, cultivated in the petri dish that is JV football and in offseason workouts, is looking to be the right decision.
It took a commitment at the lower levels of the program, and a simple willingness to push on the edges of the box that SWE played in for so many years.
“I’ve enjoyed coaching this football team,” Cobb said. “It’s been different. The last couple years all we could do was power football. But we didn’t have the same kind of skill sets on this team necessarily.
“I kept a lot of these guys on JV last year and they ran a passing-oriented offense, and that’s where I could see if we could pull it off.”
The experiment has been a resounding success as SWE (9-1, 5-0) has incorporated a passing element into its offense, got creative with its run schemes, and found a way to make it all work by playing to the strengths of an undersized, yet agile offensive line.
The Cougars have rode that wave to their fourth consecutive season with at least a share of the conference title and, for the first time this season, cracked the AP’s Top 10 rankings for Class 2-A with an appearance at No. 9.
Now, SWE will put a seven-game win streak on the line against county rival Tarboro at 7 p.m. Friday. And like Tarboro, all of SWE’s wins have been in blowout fashion with each victory coming by no fewer than 21 points.
In the past, like last season’s meeting in which Tarboro won 28-0, running on the Vikings’ defense has proved to be a poor decision. Tarboro again is stout defensively, having allowed 25 points through 10 games. But that might not be the only way to attack the vaunted Vikings’ unit.
“That’s one of the hard things about playing Tarboro,” Cobb said. “They’re so disciplined on defense, you have an extremely hard time getting the edge. If you can’t run between those tackles it’s going to be tough. They have a balanced approach to defense, and you have to have a balanced approach back on offense.”
SWE is more balanced than ever. And while that doesn’t mean that it can slay the Vikings, the Cougars are hopeful that their revamped play style can shake things up as the season grinds toward elimination games.
Lewis has thrown for 840 yards and 10 touchdowns, and has done so without the ground game falling off. Four Cougars have more than 300 rushing yards, while eight have more than 100 yards. In all, SWE has rushed for 3,073 yards and 44 touchdowns.
Credit an offensive line that Cobb said has grown each week into pass blocking and run blocking responsibilities.
“The O-line, early on I was worried about them,” Cobb said. “They’re a little undersized for varsity offensive linemen, but they have decent height and length. They have worked hard and played with a lot of heart, and they have taken us a long way. This week is their biggest challenge.”