RONDA — The East Wilkes Cardinals football team will look different on the field and on the sidelines this season. The Cardinals long-time coach, Jasson Adkins, took the head coaching position at Mount Airy, which opened up the spot for a new coach in Ronda. Mount Airy’s assistant coach, Jonathan Wilmoth, decided to apply for the job and the rest is history.
“The community support and how these people are all in behind the program, that is something you can get behind and build a better program off of,” said East Wilkes’ new head coach Wilmoth on why he wanted to coach the Cardinals. “It’s important to have support for any successful program. They have that here at East Wilkes.”
Last season East Wilkes made it to the second round of the NCHSAA playoffs, ending its season with an overall record of 9-3, and a Mountain Valley Athletic Conference record of 5-2. The Cardinals averaged four touchdowns per game, over 200 rushing yards and 250 passing yards.
Most of the success last season came from an experienced quarterback who could handle the weight of his team on his shoulders. This year, the pocket will look different as the No. 7 jersey will be taking over the coveted spot. Caeden Howell will be stepping into the starting quarterback role for East Wilkes.
Howell was the back-up quarterback last season, but he was sidelined with an injury for most of the year. This year East Wilkes will be relying on Howell to play tough in the pocket, while also making runs of his own if the time comes.
“I want us to come out and wear that EW on our chest and to play hard,” said Wilmoth of his expectations for the season. “I want the other team to walk off the field and know they have played us. That’s the expectation right now.”
The Cardinals have several returning players, but they also have new players making their way up. This season East Wilkes has 27 players on its team — 11 seniors, 10 juniors and four sophomores. The Cardinals lack the size of other teams in their conference, but the coaches are determined they will succeed this year.
“I’ve seen some things that we need to work on, and we have to be more physical,” said Wilmoth after the Cardinals’ scrimmage against Avery. “If we can get there, then we will be alright.”
For the past several years, East Wilkes has been one of the top 1A teams in the MVAC and the region. Wilmoth doesn’t expect a lot to change, but he knows there will be some struggles along the way.
“I’m looking forward to the newness of everything,” said Wilmoth. “You get to start fresh and get to build the program from the success they have had and hopefully make it better moving forward. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
The Cardinals started the 2018 season off with a home game against East Surry, one of its biggest rivals over the last three seasons. Unfortunately for East Wilkes, the Surry Cardinals were able to take the upper hand for a 52-7 win at Ebb Tharpe Field.
On Oct. 5, East Wilkes will host Starmount, and on Oct. 26, the Cardinals will host Elkin. Last season Elkin was the underdog and beat the undefeated Cardinals in the final seconds of the game. This year, both teams will have new players, which will make for another exciting meeting on the field.
“Our goal this year is to get our job done every play and we are going to let our record stand for us at the end of the season,” said Wilmoth.