ST. PAULS — From the way his players talk to the way they think on the field, Ernest King is using the offseason to change the culture of St. Pauls football going into his first season — and he’s starting to see results with his guys in the heat of summer workouts.
“A lot of them are starting to buy into the program that we’re trying to get in,” King said. “The biggest thing is getting the kids to come on a consistent basis and we’ve got a good core that has.”
Learning the positioning on the field and doing it on a consistent basis is what King, who was named head coach on March 9 after being approved by the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County following a stint as head coach at E.E. Smith, is looking for from his squad in the summer workouts.
The repetition to make their on-the-field decision making a split-second reaction is a focus of King’s on the field, with going to the classroom as the next step.
“The biggest thing is in those practices we’ve already discussed that we’re going to turn around and get on the board more,” he said. “That we can go ahead and get more of our system in so when it’s all said and done we won’t be as far behind in what we want to do offensively and defensively.”
Through spring practice and summer workouts, King has seen the Bulldogs pick up on the lessons he’s been sending out to them.
“They’re learning our system a whole lot better,” King said. “Each week that we’ve done 7-on-7, we’ve gotten better. The biggest thing is getting the kids to turn around and do everything on a consistent basis, and they’re getting better at that as well.”
The Bulldogs return all-county and all-conference offensive lineman Elijah White and linebacker Chris Ray from the 3-8 season and are two years removed from their last winning campaign coming back in 2013.
White joins forces with seniors Trey King and Christian Dunn on St. Pauls’ three-man front on defense this season, and will also take snaps on the offensive line on occasion. The three-senior defensive line will be backed by Chris and Dayshawn Ray for a defensive unit that has progressed faster than the offense thus far this offseason.
“Our defense is going to be our strength right now until our offense comes along and getting the kids adjusted to what we’re doing,” Ernest King said.
“I feel like it has taken us a long way, we believe in the system more, we’ve got coaches that believe in us and, right now, it’s working for us,” White said of the coaching change. “It’s about the same defense, mostly the same offense, and I think all of the players are starting to get more comfortable with it.”
Noah Wheeler has taken on the role as starting quarterback with running back Chris Graham and wide receivers Michael Barnes and Dakota Oxendine leading a offense that has multiple weapons around the field.
The summer workouts have also been a step up as far as conditioning for the Bulldogs and White has seen the change and knows the importance will have on the field in the fall.
“Right now, I think we’re in better shape than we were last year during the summer,” he said. “It’s helping us a lot. It’s going to help us a lot in the fourth quarters.”
“I think it’s the best one (summer) we’ve had so far since I’ve been here.”
Ernest King instructs his team during summer workouts. King takes over a 3-8 St. Pauls team from last season after being hired in March.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.