Page State Championship Preview – Wyatt Smith Reporting

Page has reached the 4-AA State Championship game for the second season in a row, making them undeniably a blockbuster team in North Carolina. Today’s matchup against the Wake Forest Cougars will  be a test to see if Page’s defense can stop the Cougars’ powerful wing-T offense.

The core of the Page team returns, which is a big advantage, including Jones’ favorite receiving target, WR Ronald Polite. The only returning starter on the offensive line is center Nick Mackovic. The leadership of Mackovic, along with RB Javon Leake and QB Will Jones at their respective positions, have helped Page become one of the best in the state.

Along with Polite, there are also younger receivers who will play a big part in Page’s offense. Naseem and Assad Alston, Nick Baker, and Jahlen King have all answered the call when Jones fires the ball in their direction. Anthony Rodriguez, another clutch receiver, is the only other senior receiver besides Polite. These receivers will probably be called on in this game more frequently than they have the whole season because Polite likely will be well-covered because of his incredible performance this postseason. Polite has nine touchdown receptions in the last three games of the playoffs.

Possibly the most under-rated difference between this Page team and the 2015 team that lost by a humiliating 49-6 in the state championship is kicker/punter Thomas Murray. Murray has played a huge role in the big victories of the Pirates’ 2016 season. He was in the shadow of Harrison Kiser in the 2015 season, but was selected as the Guilford County punter of the year this season. Kicks win games, as Page has already shown this year.

A rundown of returning championship game seniors: Will Jones(QB), Ronald Polite(WR), Javon Leake(RB), Tyler DeBerry(DE), Micah Gafford(DB/LB), Alex Gray(LB), Tarvris Martin(DB/PR), Will Hamrick(DE), Daniel Goke(DL), Terrell Baldwin(G), Tremaine Cousar(FS), and Alan Tisdale(LB). These guys are out for redemption.

Jones, Leake, and Ronald Polite will be the big playmakers for the Pirate offense. They are the go-to guys, no doubt. Javon Leake has been nursing a high-ankle sprain, but you can bet he has been saving his love – and ankle – for the State Championship game, the last game of his high school career.

The Pirate defense is facing a Wake Forest team who runs a wing-T offense. The Pirates are familiar with the wing-T, as they soundly defeated Southeast Guilford 42-6 with its wing-T two months ago. The Pirates are also familiar with the Wake Forest wing-T, as they saw it in the 2015 playoffs, when they beat the Cougars 30-21.

The Pirates have a game plan to stop the running back duo of Devon Lawrence and Marquis Dunn who have combined for 2,686 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns. The Cougars also have a back, Demarcus Jones, who has 126 carries for 590 yards and 11 touchdowns. The combination is a force to be reckoned with.

The Cougar quarterback, Chris Jones, has passed for 1,155 yards, with 15 TD and 11 INT. He has rushed for -24 yards, meaning he has been sacked in the backfield on many of those 23 rushing attempts. That’s good news for the Page defensive line and Tyler DeBerry, who will make it his goal to shut down the Cougar offense.

One of the problems the Page offensive line could face is that the Wake Forest defensive line out-sizes them by a fair margin. The Pirates O-Line has stood its ground against arguably one of the best defenses in the state, the Dudley Panthers, when they won 23-22 on October 28th at Marion Kirby Stadium on the campus of Page High School.

This year’s Pirate team is tried and true. If their defense executes by stopping the wing-T, and Will Jones and Javon Leake perform at 100 percent, they will hold a Championship trophy.