Going for a test run

Published 8:43 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Riverside’s 6-8 receiver Marcus Freeman (right) hauls in a touchdown pass during a four-team scrimmage at Riverside High School on Wednesday. (WDN Photos/Brian Haines)

WILLIAMSTON — It may be over a week away from the beginning of the prep football season but on Wednesday the hitting was in midseason form during a scrimmage hosted by Riverside, which included Plymouth, Pasquotank and Northeastern.
Despite sweltering heat that hovered near 100 degrees, all four teams looked sharp as everybody’s defense seemed just a little bit faster than their offensive counterparts.
“Defenses are always a little bit ahead of offenses,” Riverside coach Asim McGill said. “Defense is all about flying around and attacking. If you get enough guys flying around and attacking you have a chance, and that’s what you’re seeing out here.”
Riverside, which finished 10-3 last season, showed flashes of potential on both sides of the ball.
“I think the kids were playing hard. We got some young guys but I think they are stepping up and playing well,” McGill said. “When you go into a scrimmage you don’t get a chance to watch film on your opponent so they had no idea what they were going to do. I think our kids did a nice job of picking up on the fly.”
Plymouth coach Robert Cody, whose team won a share of the Four Rivers Conference crown and made it to the NCHSAA 1A East Regional finals in 2010, said one of the most important aspects of a scrimmage is to make sure everyone gets back on the bus without needing assistance.
“Number one, everybody is injury free right now and if we can through this scrimmage today and Friday without anyone being injured that will be a big key,” Cody said.
With the opener looming, both Cody and McGill said they were close to finalizing their starting units.
“I’m pretty close,” Cody said. “But anyone can still make an impression. This is big time. This is go turn on the lights and play against somebody else.”
McGill said his roster is almost complete but that there are still positions up for grabs.
“I think we’re pretty close, we have a couple of guys that we’re missing but we’re close,” McGill said. “What I tell the kids is that the eye in the sky don’t lie. We’ll look at film and see who’s going out there and competing.”
The Knights had a lot of competition this summer, especially at the QB spot where Matt Wisienewski and Ryan Wagner were battling to replace the departed Luke Mathews. As of now, it looks like Wisienewski will take the snaps on opening day.
“I would probably say he is leading the race,” McGill said. “We’re going to do some different things throughout the year and we will mix it up with our guys back there, but right now he is leading the race.”
Easing Wisniewski’s transition into the starting role is big 6-8 receiver Marcus Freeman who proved to be a tremendous weapon in the red zone on Wednesday.
“Marcus can be a great big threat for us,” McGill said. “Right now (during the scrimmage) he’s probably the best receiver we got so people can key on him a little bit, but I got some kids who are out right now and when we get them with Marcus it’s going to be tough to stop because you can’t key on just one guy … You get four downs, and with a 6-8 guy in high school football if I throw it up four times he’s got to catch one. So we (jokingly) tell Marcus he’s got to get us 21 a night.”
For Plymouth, Cody is charged with the task of replacing Ronnell Blount, Carl McCray and Elmer Cooper, who combined to form one of the best backfields in the state last season.
However, this year’s group of juniors Kendrick Pitt, Quandry Pettiford and Devonte Bland looked solid on Wednesday.
“I think they’re running pretty good, I really do,” McGill said. “We’re a long ways away in our passing game, but we didn’t have one last year so anything’s going to be a plus, but I think we can get there.”
Both teams will find out exactly how far they have come along next Friday when the prep season begins.