Eastern Randolph Wildcats load up for more football success

Stratton Barwick will be at the controls of the offense again for Eastern Randolph. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)

Eastern Randolph wants to build on last year’s dominance

RAMSEUR – Remaining the best football team in Randolph County is only part of the quest for Eastern Randolph.

The Wildcats would like to build on that. With a foundation along the offensive line and enough talent swirling around at other positions, they could be on their way.

Third-year starter Stratton Barwick is at quarterback and four offensive linemen are back from a year ago.

Eastern Randolph finished with a 10-1 record last season, exiting in the third round of the Class 1-A state playoffs. Only two Eastern Randolph games ended with a margin closer than 20 points, so the Wildcats were dominant most of the time – especially in the Piedmont Athletic Conference.

“The way we went out (in the playoffs) last year, people are kind of doubting us and think we lost too much,” Barwick said.

Veteran coach Burton Cates, who’s in the fifth season of his second go-around with Eastern Randolph, said the strength of the team should come from the offensive line. That’s anchored by right tackle Jani Norwood, a 320-pound junior.

“I’ve never had anyone batter at that position,” Cates said.

He’s joined along the front by returnees Mason Sechrest, Kolby Wilson and LaDaryan Spinks. Having the combination of linemen still in place is a luxury.

“It’s like one heartbeat up there,” Barwick said. “We just kind of roll with it.”

The playmakers around Barwick should include Davonte Brooks, Jake Fesmire, DJ Thomas and Nicah Taylor. Then there’s running back Ervodd Cassady, a transfer from Randleman who gained 755 yards and posted a team-leading five touchdowns while gaining All-PAC honors last year for the Tigers.

“He’s fast and very quick,” Barwick said.

Barwick figures to be more mobile after dealing with a 2021 knee ailment and slimming down during the offseason. He threw for 39 touchdowns and six interceptions last season.

The defense has Brooks, who has moved to linebacker from defensive end, and Julian Brooks, who has shifted from the line to form the foundation.

“The defense might not have the biggest kids, but we’ve got some speed and they’re not afraid to hit somebody,” Barwick said.

Cates said a few players might play offense and defense at the beginning of the season, but the goal will be limiting those two-way situations.

“Early in the year, you’ve got to give everybody a chance,” he said.

Eastern Randolph is the only Class 1-A team in the PAC. The Wildcats have a non-conference stacked with Class 3-A teams, including an opening date Friday night at Eastern Alamance. Both teams were No. 1 regional seeds in last year’s state playoffs in their respective classes.

“I think our team is smart enough to realize if we improve and stay healthy, we have a chance to do something in November,” Cates said.

By Bob Sutton