High School Sports

Enloe football had its best season ever last year. Why the team now has to move on.

Last season was a historic one for the Enloe football program.

The Eagles, in their second year under coach Ken Blocker, got off to an 8-0 start, the best in school history. For two months they were the talk of the town and looked to be on their way to a possible Cap-7 championship.

The seniors of that group carried the program and the Eagles won more games in a season than they ever had. In 2004, the Eagles won six games. Since then, however, they had not won more than four. So this past season, morale was high, interest in football skyrocketed and optimism replaced the gloom that typically hovered over Enloe football.

This past year’s team was led by linebacker Hamilton Moore, who has committed to Yale and was one of the top running backs in the area, and defensive end Christian Rorie, who is now at Duke.

After it’s win streak to start the season, Enloe lost its last four games of the season, including a first round playoff loss to Garner, to finish 8-4. But it was evident there was a new regime in place -- and one that wants the winning to continue.

The first step to putting those end-of-season losses behind them was taken in Chapel Hill on Thursday, when the Eagles participated in UNC’s 7-on-7 team camp. Enloe went 4-1 in the morning session, defeating conference foe Southeast Raleigh and Corinth Holders on an unusually cool June morning.

That record, however, only counts towards pride. If it were up to Blocker, he said, his players would not know about that record. During the offseason, Eagles’ players would look at their 2018 record -- with the historic eight wins. But Blocker is ready for them to move on from last season.

“So what we did, we had to remind these guys that all the work that was done last year, was last year,” Blocker said. The biggest part was MaxPreps put up the schedules and everything and now our record says 0-0 just like everybody else. Now that’s gone (the old record) we have to start working now, all that’s in the past.”

Getting his players to work hasn’t been an issue. During the dead period, the part of the offseason when players aren’t allowed to work out, players were constantly reaching out to Blocker. They wanted to do something, anything to get better.

Players were eager to get back to practice and see what the 2019 team would look like. That team would be missing three who are no longer there. The first is Rorie, who’s 6-6 and played tight end in addition to being a defensive end. The other two are Moore, who’s 215 pounds, and fellow running back Chris O’Neal, who’s 230 pounds.

With Moore and O’Neal, teams had to worry about the Eagles running the ball and wearing them out. During Thursday’s 7-on-7 session, senior quarterback Jaeden Wortham was able to put his arm on display, often hooking up with his favorite target, sophomore receiver Isaiah Jacobs (6-3, 175 pounds), who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury.

“What people don’t know is he (Jaeden) can throw, we just had Hamilton and Chris,” Blocker said of Moore and O’Neal overshadowing the team’s throwing game last season.

Moore and O’Neal combined for 2,534 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground last season. Wortham threw for 752 yards and three touchdowns last season, but with new receivers, and an emphasis on spreading it around, Blocker expects a big year from his QB, who has taken over as one of the team leaders.

Senior cornerback Deandre Swain and senior defensive tackle Daniel Bryant have joined Wortham as leaders, replacing Moore, Rorie and O’Neal, who set the bar so high it made other students scared to try out for the team.

“A lot of guys wanted to come out and I think they are scared. They see Christian, Hamilton and those guys and the work that they put in,” Blocker said Thursday. “They saw how hard you have to work to be successful. We have some guys we are trying to persuade to come out and show them that the hard work is OK. Those guys left behind the legacy of work. We are trying to tell those guys that everyone is not Hamilton and Christian, you work at your own pace.”

Pacing, is something Blocker had to learn himself, he said. Entering his third season, he remembers how energetic he was in year one, wanting to attend every camp and 7-on-7. Now he says 7-on-7 sessions “drive me nuts.”

His team, though, had played with confidence and were flying around with lots of energy. That wouldn’t have happened last summer, Blocker pointed out. This year they came in with a new found confidence that comes with winning.

“Last year when we came here they were very nervous,” Blocker said. “They didn’t really let loose and just play. They got a little taste of winning, so now they are expecting it.”

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.