Candler – This fall, there is much anticipation for Jet quarterbacks — pro star Aaron Rodgers with the New York Jets, and Cam Wait of the Enka Jets.
Wait passed for two touchdowns as Enka pulled away from Owen in the opener, scoring the final 24 points for a convincing 38-13 victory. The Jets tamed the Rosman Tigers 28-14 this past Friday.
Enka is seasoned. Half (17 of 34) on varsity are seniors. They’ve had growing pains, but also bright spots. In 2022, they won 13-10 at North Buncombe for their sole Mountain Athletic Conference victory. They won three games.
They came close three other times, losing by six or fewer points. Winning those three close games would have flipped Enka’s record to 6-3. “We just couldn’t finish those close games,” Sexton said. “Our kids are aware of that.” He is proud of how in 2023, “we play hard” and strive for full “effort and excellence.”
In Sexton’s debut at Enka in 2021, the Jets won four times and rallied to knock off usual league contender T.C. Roberson. “We didn’t roll over. We kept fighting,” Sexton said. “We had to stop T.C. in the end to win it. We did. Those four wins were big for our confidence.”
Coach Sexton won two out of three games, on average, in nine Erwin seasons through 2016. Enka’s last winning football season was 26 years ago, in 1997. But the Jets are off to a 2-1 start.
“We’re excited” about the team’s improvement, senior Cam Wait said. He noted with a smile that Coach Sexton “pushes me hard.” Wait as a sophomore “handled pressure and is tough enough,” Sexton said. Last year, Wait played the rest of the opener after breaking his throwing hand’s thumb on the opening drive. “He didn’t tell us it hurt so much.” The break was diagnosed afterward. He missed the remaining season.
Even more now, Wait “knows our offense and what motivates our players.” Fourth-year varsity Jet Sam Waddell calls Wait a tremendous “leader. He gets us to follow him” by being upbeat and respectful.
As a passer, Wait can “make every throw in the arsenal,” Sexton said. Wait said he has “more confidence in my long throws.” Quick, lanky Wait ran for 165 yards (10 YPC) and three TDs at Rosman.
Four receivers usually line up at a time for Enka. Landon Wilson leads Enka in receptions. He caught two TD passes against Owen, averaging 21 yards per catch. Waylon Simpson scored on a crossing pattern. Sophomore Evan Kaywood made five catches on Friday. Wait can lob passes to six-foot-four basketball standout Waddell in the end zone. “Sam also runs great routes,” Coach Sexton said. 230-pound TE Graham Cannon is a 230-pound tight end.
New lead tailback Dalton Sims has been brilliant. The senior rushed 24 times for 157 yards (6.5 ypc.) versus Owen. He gained 40 yards to set up one of his two rushing scores. Sophomore Chris Bethea ran for a TD against Rosman. “We need them to be efficient and productive,” finding holes in the defense and fighting for extra yards, Sexton said of his backs.
Four of the six returning offensive starters are strong, quick senior blockers. They are tackles Elias Gaines (6-5, 275 sr.) and Nick Conard (6-2, 230 sr.), center Logan Taylor (6-0, 210 sr.), and guard Josh Davis (5-11, 230 sr.). Sexton said, “They’re veterans. They know how to do it.”
The 5-2 base defense rotates seven Jets up front, including strong Cannon. He was second in the state in the discus throw as a freshman. Other starters are ILB Trey Davis and Logan David, OLB Grant Justice and D.J. Hullryder, CBs Waddell and Starley Bannon, and safeties Wilson and sophomore Logan Trantham. “Our defense fights hard to get stops,” Coach Sexton said.
Overall, he said, “we have good, hardnosed blue-collar kids.” The Jets hope to strafe their MAC rivals.