Davis brings wisdom to Northside’s defense

Published 6:15 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2017

PINETOWN — Northside defensive coordinator Walt Davis has high expectations for the Panthers’ defense this season. The players on the field won’t be the only ones with plenty of experience. Davis has 36 years of coaching at the high school and collegiate levels on his résumé.

Davis spent some time on former East Carolina head coach Ed Emory’s staff. Emory led the Pirates from 1980-1984. At the prep level, Davis headed up the football programs at Northside, Manteo and South Central in the past. He coaches alongside former Washington skipper Sport Sawyer in the 2010 NCCA East-West All-Star Game.

His experience brings wisdom when it comes to fielding a disciplined, structured defense.

“Some things over the past years that I’ve gone through, hopefully I bring some experience, schemes and things that may help us out a little bit,” Davis said.

Head coach Keith Boyd added, “Bringing coach Davis in, and he’s working with Sonny Robbins, those two are doing well and getting some things implemented. It’s some of the same things. We’re just tweaking and calling it a bit different. … We have eight coaches on staff now. It allows us to work the little things more than we have in the past. We’re hoping those little things turn into wins down the road.”

On paper, Northside’s defense looks stout this season. Despite losing two of their top-five tacklers from 2016, the Panthers have size and strength upfront with smart, athletic players in the secondary. There will be seasoned leaders all over the field. Cameron Cahoon, Parker Boyd and Raydarius Freeman are three seniors leading the front.

Among defensive backs, the Panthers have two senior safeties in Matthew Marslender and Tanner Boyd. Junior cornerback Johnathan Clark has the pure athleticism to make him one of the most promising players on the entire team.

“I know we’ve got some guys that are really giving great effort and some guys that are really playing hard,” Davis said of his assessment mere days into the preseason. “As a coach, that’s the only thing you can ask for; for kids to come out, practice hard, and play hard. Then, as a coach, it’s your responsibility to get them where they need to be and get them playing as a unit. Right now, I’m just pleased with their effort. I’m pleased with them coming to practice and doing the things they need to do.”

Davis began working with Northside about halfway through last season. Adding him to the staff helped the Panthers put on some impressive defensive performances down the stretch. They held a strong Jones Senior team to 12 points, setting up a last-minute, game-winning touchdown. They then came down to the wire in a 16-14 loss at North Edgecombe in the second round of the 1-A playoffs.

Having an entire preseason to work with the team makes a world of difference, though. It lets the players get used to all sorts of things from his coaching style to his plays. Most importantly, though, it lets Davis get to know the Panthers better.

“I get to see who some of the players I have (will be),” Davis said of the summer workouts leading into this first week of the preseason. “We were able to get a little summer work in and get some work with the guys. Things like that. It was very valuable to know the guys before the season starts. I would think that would probably be the biggest thing. The other thing is watching the guys who do want to work and the guys who don’t want to work.”

Northside’s preseason features a pair of scrimmages next week. Davis and the Panthers will put their defense to the test when they host Perquimans on Aug. 18.