In his fourth year at the helm, coach Mareno Philyaw has led Eddie White Academy to a 6-0 regular season record as they had a bye this week before the playoff begins. (Special Photo: Jerry Jackson)
HAMPTON — With only a couple starters back from last year’s team, Eddie White Academy coach Mareno Philyaw looked at the prospect of a rebuilding season.
There was a good chance that the Wolves were looking at missing the postseason for only the second time in school history.
But that hasn’t been the case for Philyaw’s team.
Not only is White in the postseason, which starts next week, the Wolves have a strong chance of being the top seed in the postseason. If Rex Mill defeated M.D. Roberts on Tuesday, the Wolves clinch the top season with its 6-0 regular season record.
A win by Roberts would tie it with White, and the school’s will have a coin flip at the county athletic office this morning to determine the top seed.
“We thought we would be rebuilding and filling in some spots because of what we lost at graduation,” Philyaw said. “We looked at the athletes we had coming in, and we are very proud of what they have done. We have had some kids to go above and beyond what we expected of them on the field.”
Before starting the White program from scratch, Philyaw was an assistant coach at his alma mater North Clayton Middle and coached a women’s professional team. He is a former standout at North Clayton High.
Now, he is trying to make his mark at White. The Wolves have outscored their opponents 151-24 with its closet loss coming to defending middle champion Rex Mill (18-12) in Week 3 of the season.
The team had a bye week, and mostly rested and practiced for the state of the playoffs. Philyaw said the bye week came at the right time.
“It gives our kids a chance to recover from a big season, and for some injuries to heal,” he said. “We also get a chance to tweak some things going into the playoffs. We pretty much know where we stand at this point. We are just ready for the playoffs to start.”
The top eight teams from the regular season advance to the playoffs, which start on Tuesday with doubleheaders at Tara and Twelve Oaks stadiums. White will be trying to erase the memory of last season’s first-round defeat. The Wolves are hoping to make a deep run like it did four years ago when it played in the championship game — a loss to Rex Mill.
“These guys are hungry to do well in the playoffs,” Philyaw said. “From the beginning of the season, we wanted a chance to play for the championship. We don’t want to go out in the first round again. It is important to the kids, coaching staff and school that we do a good job in the playoffs.”
Philyaw said he will be counting on the leadership of some returning starters, including quarterback Malik Williams and fullback/linebacker Tony Reeves to help guide the team. He said they did a good job during the regular season, and expect it to continue throughout the postseason.
“Our leadership has been good,” Philyaw said. “Our guys are playing well together.”
The coach said that the togetherness of the team has showed on and off the field. He said many of the players grew up together through the recreation league as either teammates or opponents.
“Most of them came from winning programs before they got to middle school,” Philyaw said. “They are accustomed to winning. It has really carried over into middle school. It really helps having your quarterback as one of the leaders on the team. He can see the game from the coach’s prospective.”