Sharpe, Gatling fuel Rams' attack
HAVELOCK | Two seasons ago, as a sophomore, Tony Sharpe had one of the greatest seasons ever for a Havelock High football player.
He piled up nearly 2,300 rushing yards with 38 touchdowns.
Almost every time he touched the ball, Sharpe was destined to break off a huge play.
After an injury-riddled junior season, in which he still racked up more than 1,400 yards, he’s aiming to get back to that form that put him in the Rams’ record books.
“Every chance I get, I’m going to try and make big plays,” Sharpe said. “Every running back wants to score touchdowns, so every chance I get to touch the ball, I want to score as much as I can for my team.”
The 5-foot-8, 190-pound running back doesn’t have to carry the load all by himself with this group of skilled playmakers on the field, like senior Montrece Gatling, who committed to play football at Navy.
Gatling assumed the tailback duties last season while Sharpe was healing from a banged up shoulder and ankle. He scampered for 615 yards with nine scores.
His role this year will be as a slot receiver and a tailback, whenever Sharpe needs a spell.
“I have speed and explosiveness. Tony is a great player, so whenever he comes out, I will just do my thing,” Gatling said. “On offense, I’m there to make big plays, communicate and make sure people are in the right spot and do what I have to do.”
Sharpe will certainly be a focal point in Havelock’s lethal offense.
He has the ability to fight off tackles or out-run opponents to the outside.
“I’m looking to bring speed and power. I’m trying to have more speed and power than I had last year because I’m trying not to bang my body up as much this year,” Sharpe said.
“I’m going to try not to take as many unnecessary shots and try to duck more.”
The tandem may also be in the backfield together in a formation called “Mountaineer,” a play that could be dangerous for opposing defenses.
“I feel like when we are in a Mountaineer set, we will be more deadly and defenses would have a tough time stopping us. Us together, we are a good duo,” Sharpe said.
Gatling, with his speed and ball-hawking skills, is a lockdown cornerback as well. He had nine pass breakups last season.
“On defense, I’m a defensive captain. I have to make sure I don’t give up any big plays,” Gatling said. “I need to get picks when I get the chance because that’s a game-changer.”
Gatling committed to Navy more than a month ago, while Sharpe is still searching for his best fit in college.
As seniors, and as dynamic athletes, the first mission is to win a state championship. Last year, Havelock suffered a rare second-round loss in the playoffs, and the previous season, it lost in the state finals.
“This has to be a good year. I have to make sure I am crisp on everything I do,” Sharpe said. “I have to help the team out as much as I can. This is my last year, I’m trying to get a ring and do big things.”
The Rams have won a state title in three of the previous five seasons, but none since 2013.
Gatling said the team is motivated to get back to the pinnacle of the sport in December.
“There’s definitely a lot of motivation. We want to win the state championship,” Gatling said. “We want to be like Pharoh (Cooper), Derrell (Scott) and those guys before us. We don’t want to go out early like last year because we’ve put in so much work.
“We have to make sure we come out on top. Anything below a state championship, that’s a losing season for us. We definitely have to win it.”
Adam Thompson is the sports editor at the Sun Journal. He can be contacted at 252-635-5669. Follow Adam on Twitter @A_ThompsonNBSJ