If you live outside of Wendell and follow the state of North Carolina recruiting, you probably have heard of Terry Hunter. He is the "middle" of a recruiting battle between NC State and UNC that rivals the A.J. Davis war that was fought in 2002.
If you live in Wendell, you might of heard of Blake Merritt. He is the "other player" on East Wake's defensive line that outsiders seem to miss.
Regardless of who you heard of, to fully understand the success of the 13-2 Warriors, you have to know both Hunter and Merritt. Both are a big part of why East Wake made it to the East Regional finals in 2002. TSW assumes you know Hunter. You are about to find out about Merritt. Those that know him best say he is a player "who's heart pumps, runs and bleeds the game of football".
TSW talked to Blake Merritt Tuesday evening to see what has transpired the last few years with him as a football player for the Warriors. We did not have to ask much, before the DE told his tale:
"You want a story, let me give you a story. I'll start at the beginning. During my freshman year, Terry and I did not like each other. We were pretty much rivals. We came into East Wake from different middle schools. We went out for football and we made the JV team. We got to know each other and we became best friends. We had a good year that year and both of us were pulled up at the end of the season. We were excited about the chance to play varsity as freshmen."
"We both started our Sophomore year. We had alot of success early. We both pretty much ran the defense together that year. Recruiting wise, things were looking good for both of us. Then in my Junior year I missed four games. This hurt my chances to be seen by the colleges. Terry got recognized and he received alot of the interest. We had a good year on the field, but for me, I got behind in recruiting."
"This year, we both picked it up and we advanced pretty far in the play-offs. We got beat by New Bern in the Eastern finals, who eventually got beat by Independence. I haven't fully decided yet, but it looks like I am going to go to Hargrave. I need to work on a few grades and I want to play for a major Division 1 program. I could play for smaller schools, and I have offers, but I want to be challenged. I can play on any level. I can do whatever I set my mind to do, and I want to play at a major. I've been told by the coaches at Hargrave that I can start for them right now and that once I get up there, Division 1 schools will want me to play for them. This is the chance I missed during my Junior year."
There have been a few schools looking at Merritt this year including NC State. "I have had some interest this year. Western Carolina has shown some interest. I also talked to East Carolina early. I have a few offers from smaller schools, but the bigger ones want me to get my grades right. Coach Pate (NC State) was by my house Sunday and he thought it was best if I go to prep school for eight months then transfer on to a Division 1 program. If I go up there, it will open my options up, and I will leave things open. I will take a look at everyone who calls."
TSW also asked about his best friend Terry Hunter, his recent trip to UNC and his wavering commitment. "I heard he told them he was going to cancel his other visits, but he tells me something different every other day. We talk and he needs to look at all options. He agrees with that. We are both scheduled to take an official visit to NC State on the 24th."
Merritt's final season stats is deserving the looks from the D1s. He had 103 tackles, 13.5 sacks for minus-65 yards, 22 tackles for losses, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, four pressures, safety, blocked punt recovery and one deflected pass.
The "other player" in Wendell, Blake Merritt, was named as the "Defensive Player of the Year" for East Wake in 2002. This award was earned. It was earned by a player who's heart pumps, runs & bleeds the game of football. That is the untold story of East Wake Football. And it is the "Rest of the Story" for the people outside of Wendell.