Sexton Piloting Jets to Rarer Air - TribPapers

Sexton Piloting Jets to Rarer Air

Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Candler – Mike Sexton quadrupled Enka’s win total to four in his debut as head coach last fall, and he is revving up Jet engines to soar to greater heights.

Sexton is used to winning in the Mountain Athletic League (MAC). He won two of every three games with Erwin in nine seasons, through 2016 after which he retired. “It’s fun to be back” in the league, he said.

Coach Mike Sexton. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Coach Mike Sexton. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Sexton installed his quick-passing spread at Enka. Enka last had a winning football season 25 years ago, when Bill Clinton was president. Sexton expects all-out “effort and excellence. Their dedication and work ethic is tremendous. We don’t talk in terms of win numbers. We emulate what a good team does. The rest takes care of itself.”

It sure did last fall. Enka beat T.C. Roberson and North Buncombe in the MAC, after winning no league contests a year earlier. While trailing athletic TCR, “we didn’t roll over. We kept fighting,” Sexton emphasized. “We had to stop TC in the end, to win it. We did.” Quarterback Cam Wait is proud “we got ‘em here. Our home crowd was behind us,” and that pumped up the players.

Receiver Matt Rogers noted a “winning mentality” took hold from such victories. Senior linebacker Briley Tolbert, back with Enka after two years, notices more “sternness” in practice. He is eager to help “turn things around” for more winning. Wait said Coach Sexton “pushes us to extra intensity.” Safety Lathan Lunsford said “there’s no horseplay. Coach makes it fun, adding in some fun drills. He’ll joke with us during (game) warm-ups,” but not once the whistle blows.

Cam Can Do

Cam Wait (5-11, 150 jr.), Rogers and other Jets like the no-huddle offense’s fast pace and energy. They are among six returning starters on offense. Wait grew three inches and added 15 pounds. He said he feels “a whole lot stronger.” Sexton said, “his arm strength has improved tremendously” along with accuracy. “Cam can make every throw in the arsenal,” and go beyond the usual short throws for some deeper heaves. Sexton calls Wait “intelligent,” a quick learner of plays. “You tell him one time. He understands.” Though still under-sized versus defenders, Wait runs well as he is “tough and not afraid. He took a lot of shots” last fall, but kept at it.

Four receivers usually line up at a time. Athletic and sure-handed Matt Rogers (6-0, 160 sr.) is in the slot. WR Sam Waddell (6-2, 170 jr.) is a half-foot taller now. “Sam also runs great routes,” Sexton said.

Tailback duties are shared by LaDarrell Mashburn (5-10, 155 sr.) and Riley Pugh (5-10, 160 sr.). Both have “good vision” to find defensive gaps, and fight for extra yards, Sexton said. C.J. Whitmire (5-8, 150 sr.) provides depth. Sexton said, “we should be efficient in moving the chains” for first downs to sustain drives.

Jet blockers again are guards Landon Edwards (6-1, 250 sr.) and Josh Davis (5-11, 240 jr.), and tackle Elias Gaines (6-5, 280 jr.). Tackle Nick Conard (6-2, 230 jr.) and center Logan Taylor (5-11, 220 jr.) join them. Returning linemen are “stronger” from weighlifting, and also have “good feet and hands,” Sexton said. Wait notices aggressive, stronger blocking.

Enka Jet stars include (L-R) Landon Edwards (67), Matt Rogers (8), Colton Crooke (41) and Cam Wait (12). Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Enka Jet stars include (L-R) Landon Edwards (67), Matt Rogers (8), Colton Crooke (41) and Cam Wait (12). Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The defense also returns six starters. Its base shifts to a 5-2, from 4-2-5. ILBs are defensive leader Colton Crooke (5-10, 165 sr.), and Briley Tolbert (6-0, 220 sr.). Tolbert comes off of two Robbinsville seasons with deep playoff runs. WRs are DBs. Lathan Lunsford (5-9, 160 sr.) is a safety. He said Enka got much more “aggressive” last fall than before.

Up front are returnees Davis and Gio Rapasarda (5-11, 225 jr.) and Edwards inside, and DEs Pugh and Graham Cannon (6-1, 230 so.). Strong Cannon was second in the state in the discus throw. The D-line rotates in Christian Moses (6-0, 215 sr.) and Kolby Hardin (5-10, 220 sr.).

Coach Sexton said “our defense continued to improve” last fall with quick pursuit, and that is a key to contain explosive MAC spread offenses. In the league, “I hear Reynolds is the team to beat. Then Asheville. After that, it’s maybe a toss-up” – with his Jets fighting hard.