Should be a wild year in Four Rivers|Conference hard to predict after busy off-season

Published 11:45 am Friday, August 20, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
Tonight the much-anticipated 2010 prep football season will kickoff and this year promises to be a wild one for area teams in the Four Rivers Conference.
Fans from all over are anxious to see just how much of an impact the merging of Williamston and Jamesville, along with the combination of Roanoke and Bear Grass, will have on the conference.
Williamston and Jamesville, both schools that have had a solid football tradition, now go by the name of the Riverside Knights, and could potentially wreak havoc on the conference.
Bear Grass did not have a football team but featured several good athletes, and when combined with the Roanoke athletes, the newly-formed South Creek Cougars will no doubt be a team on the rise.
Gone from Roanoke is the popular Brian Paschal, as he and his wing-T offense skipped over to D.H. Conley. That vacancy was quickly filled by first-year head coach Jeremy Jones, as he and his triple-option offense will look to lead the Cougars to success.
Another coaching change that figures to have a big impact on the conference is the reappearance of DeWayne Kellum at Southside.
Kellum, who has been to two 1-A state title games and is the Seahawks all-time wins leader, left the program three years ago. David Hines took his place, and though he struggled mightily, appeared to get the team back on track last season.
Hines departed to coach closer to home on the western side of the state, opening the door for Kellum to bring back his famed intensity and wing-T offense.
While their have been plenty of shakeups around the Four Rivers Conference, one constant is Plymouth. The Vikings, led by coach Robert Cody who enters his 26th year as the team’s skipper, return a large portion of a team that went 9-5 last year and knocked off undefeated Four Rivers Conference champions Manteo in the second round of the 1-A playoffs.
The summer is the time for training camps and speculation, but that time has ended. Come tonight it’s show and prove, so let the games begin.
Vikings breakdown:
Coach: Robert Cody, 26th year
Key loss: Jason Puckett, QB
Key Returnees: OT Paris Palmer, RB Ronnell Blount
Offense: Wing T; defense: 3-5
Game 1: Farmville Central (0-0) at Plymouth (0-0)
If the team can remain healthy Plymouth is poised to have a big season as it returns almost every key player from last year’s 9-5 team. The Vikings have great depth at running back where WDN all-area runner Ronnell Blount is back for his senior year along with fullback Elmer Cooper, RB Dylan Watts and wingback Carl McCray.
The Vikings lost their starting quarterback from a year ago, but replace him with Akeem Cooper who played the position two seasons ago.
Blocking for all those talented backs is a big line that features several 300-pounders, with the most notable being 6-7, 318-pounder LT Paris Palmer.
“The goals for this year’s team is to go out and just block and tackle,” Cody said. “The long run goals are always to get to the state championship, that’s always got to be your goal.”
The Vikings have that kind of potential, but first must tackle their Week 1 opponent Farmville Central. Cody said he is not too familiar with the team, but noted his main concern is on his own crew.
“To be honest I don’t know a whole lot about (Farmville Central), we have not traded any tape,” Cody said. “But right now at this time of year you focus on your self and try and do what you do.”
Cody said the biggest X-factor this week will be the play of special teams.
“We need to block and tackle and not turn the ball over. I hate to be so blunt, but we need to focus on fundamentals,” Cody said. “I also think the kicking game is important. The first game of the year it can be real screwy.”
Knights breakdown:
Coach: Asim McGill, fifth year
Key losses: RB Cedric Moody, C/DL Walt Ange
Key Returnees: QB Luke Mathews, WR K.J. Brown
Offense: Shot-run; defense: 4-3
Game 1: Williamston (0-0) at Ayden-Grifton
The good news for the Knights is that after combining Williamston and Jamesville together they have a larger pool of athletes. The bad news is that one of those athletes, Cedric Moody, is no longer in that pool. Moody was last season’s WDN Player of the Year, and was a threat to score every time he touched the ball.
Despite the loss of Moody, Riverside has a solid team and will no doubt be contenders for a Four Rivers Conference title.
The Knights bring back WDN all-area QB Luke Mathews, as well as all-area WR K.J. Brown, who is one of the best receivers around.
As for replacing Moody, nobody can do that, but senior RB Quinton Lawrence is a good place to start.
“Quinton got a lot of time last year, if we were up on teams he got some time. He gave us a long of big runs,” Knights’ coach Asim McGill said. “Quinton is a Plymouth-type back, he’s not a big guy but he is quick. He can hide behind those linemen and give us a big run.”
The Knights will hit the road to take on Ayden-Grifton in their opener and it should provide a good test for McGill’s team.
“Ayden-Grifton is a good program, they are a wing-T team and they are going to want to run the football,” McGill said. “Defensively, they usually run a 4-3, 4-4 and are tough.”
Like Cody, McGill said his biggest concern heading into the opener is the play of his special teams.
“I think early in the season a lot of games will be won by special teams,” McGill said. “A lot of times we scrimmage and run just offense and defense … So I think special teams play is going to be big. We are going to have to go there, not make mistakes and be solid in the kicking game if we want to get the win.”
Panthers breakdown:
Coach: Keith Boyd, fifth year
Key losses: QB Isaiah McCullor, OL Seth Boyd
Key returnees: RB DeMarquez Martin, OG Lenny Chavez
Offense: multiple; defense: 52 front
Game 1: Northside (0-0) at Creswell (0-0)
The Panthers will begin the 2010 season at the same place their 2009 season ended: Creswell. Last year Northside had an up and down season as it finished 3-9. Though it snuck into the postseason, Northside came within a point of pulling off a tremendous upset as it lost 30-29 to the No. 2 ranked Tigers in OT.
The Panthers are heading back to Creswell looking to avenge that loss.
“That is something the kids have been talking about,” Northside coach Keith Boyd said. “They are pretty pumped about going back there to play. As for me, I’m just excited to see them have that enthusiasm in the program.”
There is a lot to be excited about at Panthers’ camp. The program got a good turnout this summer and returns star running back DeMarquez Martin, who rushed for over 1,300 yards last season.
While the team loses QB Isaiah McCullor, the starter from last year’s squad, Taequan Mackey has looked good in camp and could be a dual threat QB.
Boyd, who along with Riverside coach Asim McGill is regarded as one of the more creative offensive minds in the conference, will have some new wrinkles this year.
In the past the Panthers have run a lot of spread and spread-bone sets, but this year look for them to show a few more traditional alignments.
“We are going to be multiple on offense,” Boyd said. “We are going to spread you out a little bit, we will throw a little bit, but we will also bring it back and go double-tights and wishbone.”
Aside from having some quality skill guys, Boyd felt the play of both his lines will be crucial this year.
“We are really depending a lot on our offensive and defensive lines,” Boyd said. “We have a lot of returners there, it’s a veteran group.”
Boyd said this year’s goal is simple: Be better than last year.
“We want to do the best we can in the conference, a top three finish would be great,” Boyd said. “We are just looking to win enough games to be competitive and get in the playoffs. Once you are there you never know. You can get hot late in the season and who knows what can happen. We just want to get better than we were last year.”
Seahawks breakdown:
Coach: DeWayne Kellum, 8th year
Key returnees: TE/SS Curtis Meyers, Treshon Blount
Offense: Wing-T; defense 3-5
Game 1: Southside (0-0) at North Duplin (0-0)
Most coaches preach a lot about a clean slate, by when DeWayne Kellum reclaimed the head coaching position at Southside he meant it.
“We started over,” Kellum said. “I told the kids that whatever position the had last year or whatever kind of hero they were has nothing to do with what we are doing this year because it’s a whole new offense and defense. Everybody is starting from scratch.”
The Seahawks will abandon the spread-type offense that was run under previous coach David Hines and get back to the wing-T offense that was so successful in Kellum’s previous tenure as Southside coach. Kellum said the key rests in having intense practices.
“The main thing is trying to get people to be consistent,” Kellum said. “They are learning that they have to be at practice everyday and work like it’s their last practice before a championship game everyday. … They are starting to step up to the plate, but I don’t want them to think that we are there, because we’re not.”
One positive this year for the Seahawks is that as a team they are quick.
“We don’t have anybody that has blazing speed, but overall we got pretty good team speed,” Kellum said. “We haven’t got a Bryan Haywood or a Joe King, but we got good overall team speed.”
Though the personnel has changed throughout the years, the goals have not.
“They are the same as they always are,” Kellum said. “We want to win all the non-conference games, win all the home games, win the conference games, get a home seed in the playoffs, get to the East Region of the playoffs and hope the rest takes care of itself.”