FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Prince Edward Eagles bring driven mindset

Published 5:03 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The players learned a lesson from last season. When the Prince Edward Eagles walked off the field for the last time in November, having beaten Randolph-Henry 30-14, they saw what could have been. The 5-5 Eagles fell just short of the playoffs and promised themselves and their coach not to let that happen again.

“Most of them showed up in January, ready to work,” Prince Edward coach Larry White said. “They saw how close we were to making the playoffs and their goal is to get in here, do the work to have a winning season and make the playoffs this time.”

White said he’s seen a difference in the mindset since everyone started working. The team wants to learn, they want to do more than just line up on Fridays. They want to study plays, get in the weightroom and do the work needed to be successful.

“I want to give the whole team credit, because it’s been a team effort,” White said. “Everyone wants to be in that mix for the top teams in the district. They worked on getting the “I” and “me” out of their system. It’s becoming “we” and “us” on and off the field. They’ve realized to be successful, we don’t just do football. We don’t just lift weights or play on Friday. We’re working on fundamentals and going from there.”

The biggest part of that, White said, is seeing players encouraging each other, motivating and picking up when others struggle.

Making some changes

This marks White’s fifth season with Prince Edward, but just his fourth full year, due to the pandemic. You can already see the development during that time. Two years ago, the Eagles were 2-8. Last year, they made the improvement to go 5-5 and fell just short of the playoffs. And that playoff chase was just a couple points out of reach. If that 22-20 loss to Greenville County goes a different way, who knows what would have happened.

White says the players see how close they were. And they don’t want to be close again. They want to be in the hunt.

This marks White’s 15th year in coaching. He spent nine of those at Prince Edward Middle School, with two more at Buckingham High. Throughout all that time, his philosophy has stayed the same.

“My philosophy has always been run first,” White said. “I’m gonna run to open up the pass. I’ve been a run first man ever since I’ve been coaching.”

To do that successfully, you have to build a strong connection between the running backs and the offensive line. The Eagles are focusing on zone and combo blocking this season. A combo block is where you use two linemen to block defenders on different levels. One offensive lineman catches the defensive end rushing in, while another picks up the linebacker. That can free a running back for some big gains, but they all have to be in synch. That’s where this year’s buy-in from the team, coming in early and learning those fundamentals, studying hard with the playbook, all pays off.

“These boys all wanted to improve and they’re doing what it takes to make that happen,” White said.

Prince Edward Eagles look ahead

When it comes to this year’s schedule, White said he and his team already know there are a few games people have circled. Lunenburg Central comes to town on Sept. 29 and the Eagles will go on the road to face Buckingham on Oct. 20.

“Buckingham and Lunenburg, they were 1 and 2 last year, so we know what they bring to the table,” White said. “But as far as what we’re looking at, we’re focused on everybody in the district. Every team is gonna be tough. We know this going in. But the thing is, we all go in with a 0-0 score. You just have to compete with them and play hard. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Prince Edward starts off the season at home against Chatham, then goes on the road against Altavista, before returning to take on Nelson County here. The way this season is structured, there’s no real home or away series. By that, we mean the Eagles play one game at home, then go on the road the next week and vice versa. It’s similar to last year, where the back and forth allowed the team to get into a rhythm early and rattle off three straight wins to start the season.

This time around, White said he’s looking for players to step up, to take leadership on and off the field and make good decisions.

“I like to push my guys to be the best they can be,” White said. “They know I love them but show tough love as well.”

To read the entire 2023 High School Football Preview click here.