By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Tyrek Samuel’s workload expanded in a hurry for Eastern’s football team in the first week of the season.
The sophomore running back showed he could handle it.
Six touchdowns later, the Eagles had yet another proven play maker.
“I was surprised I had a game like that,” Samuel said. “Six touchdowns in my first game of sophomore year. I didn’t expect to have the carries that I did.”
Nor did Eastern coach John Kirby. Entering Friday night’s 42-28 victory against visiting Eastern Randolph, junior Josh Murray was likely the featured back. Samuel, though, had shown signs of the ability to excel as well.
“It wasn’t that he wasn’t good enough to be a starter,” Kirby said.
By the end, Samuel had a variety of highlight plays. His favorite was running the last 55 yards of a hook-and-lateral play.
There were other special moments to go with it for Samuel, who scored on a 5-yard catch and on runs of 10, 45, 15 and 31 yards.
Now it will be up to Southern, which visits Mebane on Friday night, to slow down Samuel.
“You have to be in the right spot to contain him,” Southern coach Fritz Hessenthaler said.
Samuel gained 191 rushing yards on 13 carries. Those extra opportunities developed when junior Josh Murray, who picked up more than 1,200 yards on the ground last season, suffered a tweaked hamstring early in the game.
“The idea was to keep somebody fresh in there,” Kirby said. “Turned out to be a pretty good night.”
Still, there already was a plan to feature Samuel, who’s 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, along with Murray.
“Typically, we play a one-back offense,” Kirby said. “We’re not too stupid, so we have a lot of two-back stuff in (our playbook).”
Samuel, 15, scored four touchdowns last season. Yet his role has grown.
“Just being on the stage of a Friday night lights,” Samuel said. “My line gave me a chance to score and I took it.”
Southern had notable offense in its 51-6 romp at Graham to begin the season, with junior Jackson Parrish racking up four touchdowns. Jackson was nearly unstoppable early in the game.
“If we kept him in there, he probably could have kept scoring,” Hessenthaler said.
Parrish is listed as a 220-pounder, so he’ll pick up yards in different ways than Eastern’s backs.
The Patriots liked how their first game went.
“It’s still really early in the year, so it’s hard to gauge,” Hessenthaler said. “Obviously, we found some things we have to work on.”
Hessenthaler is in his fifth season in charge of the Patriots. Under his watch, they’re 1-2 in matchups with Eastern. The teams didn’t play in the 2021 spring season (which replaced the cancelled 2020 slate).
Here’s a look at some of the other games set for Friday night:
Western at Cummings
There’s still something to be settled here, stemming from last year. The teams played a rarity when their 2021 meeting ended in a 14-14 tie in a late-season make-up game. That was the score when the game was halted because of inclement weather and never resumed.
Cummings will try to build off its 22-20 victory at Williams.
Western was stumped by visiting Reidsville last week.
Eastern Guilford at Williams
This has a notable coaching matchup because both men are former coordinators at Eastern Alamance. They were on the coaching staff for the Eagles during a long successful stretch, with Tony Aguilar, now at Eastern Guilford, the offensive coordinator, and Patrick Stokes, now at Williams as the defensive coordinator.
So it figures there’s quite a bit of knowledge for each coaching staff about certain tendencies for the opposing team.
Williams, for its part, pulled out several gadget plays in its first game. Those have long been staples in the Williams program from back in the day when Stokes played under Sam Story. So even early in the season, the Bulldogs were pulling out the tricks.
“We try to be pretty thorough,” Stokes said.
Eastern Guilford and Williams were supposed to meet last year, but the game was nixed amid COVID-related schedule adjustments.
Eastern Guilford, which was battered in a 44-15 opening loss to visiting Northern Guilford, and Williams were in the same conference prior to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association realignment before the 2021-22 school year.
There’s bound to be comparisons for these teams in the preparation phase. Williams had a strong preseason scrimmage against Northern Guilford on Aug. 12.
Graham at Carrboro
The Red Devils aim for their first victory under first-year coach Bobby Houston Jr.
Last year, Graham topped Carrboro 50-40 and in the 2021 spring season the Red Devils’ lone victory came vs. Carrboro. The teams are former conference rivals.
Carrboro opened the season with a 30-0 loss at Bartlett Yancey.
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