And they did. The Bulldogs averaged an eye-popping 45.5 points and roughly 450 yards a night en route to the program’s winningest season since 2007 — a 9-4 campaign that ended in a 2AA second round loss at Reidsville.
Perhaps the cornerstone of St. Pauls’ explosive offense was senior running back Shawn Williams. As the lone back in the Bulldogs’ Pistol, Williams produced 2,007 rushing yards on 264 carries — 7.6 yards a clip — and 27 touchdowns, adding 150 yards receiving with two scores.
His rushing total was 651 yards more than Lumberton’s Daniel Robinson who finished next in line with 1,356 yards and 17 scores. For his efforts, Williams has been named The Robesonian’s Offensive Player of the Year for the 2012 season.
“I had good blocking on my offensive line, and hit the holes right,” Williams said. “We changed our formation (from last year), it gave me time to read my holes correctly.”
In the process, Williams racked up double-digit 100-yard games — including six consecutive at one point — and crossed the 200-yard plateau in four outings. On top of that, he contributed a touchdown or more in every game but one.
“He had the ability to keep the chains moving, that was the big thing,” St. Pauls head coach Trey Sasser said. “I’ve always said, when you play with one back, he’s got to have a lot of speed or be real powerful or have a combination, and Shawn has a little bit of both.”
That was evident all season, but especially on Sept. 14 when Williams etched a career-best showing in a blowout win over Harrells Christian Academy. Williams took 23 carries a whopping 255 yards, gashing HCA’s defense for 11.09 yards a clip, and found the end zone three times, including a 58-yard touchdown trot.
“I didn’t really notice I had that many yards until I looked at my brother on the sidelines and he told me,” Williams said. “I just kept running and it felt good.”
The previous game, Williams provided 209 yards and three scores in St. Pauls’ 76-point eruption in a win over West Bladen. Williams, a three-year varsity starter who shared snaps his sophomore year before earning the feature back position as a junior, had been apart of high-scoring affairs before, but even he was surprised by the gaudy offensive numbers his team was churning out week after week.
“We didn’t know we had that much talent, it felt really good,” he said. “We didn’t think we could go that well since it was the first time running the offense (under Barbour), but as the season went on we felt like we could work with it.”
Coach Sasser chalked it up to experience and veteran leadership from his players.
“The majority had been in the program the past couple years,” Sasser said. “Before, we had to play guys on the JV now and then, this year the guys have been with us for years. That was one of the biggest things.”
The county’s offensive player of the year is hoping to take what he’s learned at St. Pauls to the collegiate level next fall. Williams has garnered interest from North Carolina A&T and Winston-Salem State University.