Aug 17, 2013
Garner's #2 Nyheim Hines runs the ball as Jack Britt defeats Garner 14 to 8 Friday night November 23, 2012 to advance to the NCHSAA 4AA State Championship. (Photo by Jack Tarr)
The HighSchoolOT.com Jamboree kicks off at Southeast Raleigh on Saturday morning, and with 16 teams coming throughout the day, there are plenty of story lines to look for.
Obviously, the weather will be a story line. It seems inevitable that it is going to rain, so we'll just hope for light rain, intermittent rain, and nothing that forces the jamboree to be canceled.
Assuming the weather cooperates, the first game of the day will kick off at 9:30 a.m.
9:30 AM - Clayton vs. Sanderson
Both of these teams have new head coaches. Randy Pinkowski left C.B. Aycock to take over the Clayton program that legendary Gary Fowler left behind after he retired, and Ben Kolstad left Cary to take over a Sanderson program that has struggled the last several years.
Pinkowski was an assistant coach on the Clayton staff that won the 1989 state championship, so he knows the Comets well, but this year one of the question marks will be in an unusual area for Clayton – the defense. Clayton will have to replace a lot of very good talent in the backfield and along the line on defense, and we'll see how they are able to stack up against Sanderson.
The Spartans return some talent this season, and their line could be one of their strengths with some big kids along it. Can the skill players make plays and put points on the board? Last year Sanderson averaged just 13 points per game, while giving up 33.5 points. Obviously that has to change if Sanderson is going to improve on its 2-9 record from 2012.
10:45 AM - West Johnston vs. Enloe
West Johnston is yet another team with a new head coach this season. Jimmy Williams – the former East Wake football coach – was promoted from assistant coach to head coach at West Johnston after Randy Ragland resigned from the position. Williams won't have last year's starting quarterback anymore, but other positions will be much more experienced, especially on defense. So, can the defensive show that it has improved from last year with that experience? And can the offense put up points with a new player under center?
Enloe struggled last season, putting together a 1-10 season. Enloe isn't very big this year, but they also return experience from a young team last year. The Eagles have 10 starters back on offense, which means the experienced offense of the Eagles will be going up against the experience of the West Johnston defense. That will be the match-up to watch in this game.
12:00 PM - Garner vs. Cardinal Gibbons
Two of the most successful teams in Wake County in the last few years will meet up when Garner (4A) and Cardinal Gibbons (3A) take the field to open up the afternoon games on Saturday.
Garner has a new head coach this season in Thurman Leach, but he's not really new. He's spent decades on the sideline at Garner as an assistant coach. The Trojans will have to replace a lot of talent this year, including at quarterback now that the winningest quarterback in Garner history – Vince Jefferies – has graduated. Nyheim Hines will need to be the go-to play-maker this year as a junior at running back. Hines ran for 750 yards on 95 carries last year. He also caught 23 passes for 355 yards.
Look for other play-makers on offense for Garner though. One name that pops out to me? Brayden Sims. The senior caught 26 passes for 201 yards last year.
Cardinal Gibbons also lost a lot of play-making ability on offense, but one of the five returning starters on the offensive side of the ball is capable of making very big plays – quarterback Shawn Stankavage. Last season, Stankavage threw for 1,980 yards and 25 touchdowns, but this year the Crusaders have to replace their wide receivers.
Watch for how Gibbons uses senior Dante DiMaggio in the scrimmage. DiMaggio, who made his share of big plays for the Crusaders last season, will likely play an even bigger role this season. Capable of playing several different positions, the play of DiMaggio could have a big impact on the success of Cardinal Gibbons.
The front seven on defense is a big advantage for Gibbons this year, and that should create an interesting match-up with Garner's run-heavy offense and Hines.
1:15 PM - Green Hope vs. Millbrook
The Falcons made a push last season, getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Green Hope put together a 6-6 season, and they return some of the key figures that helped produce those wins.
Quarterback Chris Tutwiler returns for his senior year after completing 210 of 352 passes for 2,428 yards and 16 touchdowns. Tutwiler will lead the offense, while sophomore Ridge Ford will be one of the leaders on defense. Ford earned all-conference honors as a freshman at defensive back. The Falcons' junior varsity team went undefeated last season, so the maturation of those players moving up to the varsity level will determine the success of the Green Hope team this fall.
Millbrook missed the playoffs last season, but with experience coming back, including quarterback Lemar Harris, the Wildcats should improve this season. Harris completed 96-of-189 passes for 1,049 yards last season. Last year's big target Corey Cooper has graduated though, but the Wildcats are encouraged about their skill positions this season. Also watch for running back Daminick Wilkins to make plays for Millbrook.
The biggest questions for the Wildcats coming into the season are along both lines.
3:00 PM - Knightdale vs. Wake Forest
The afternoon session will feature two teams who are expected to be very good this fall. Knightdale completed a 7-4 season last year, and two of their best play-makers are back in Marquavious Johnson and Marcell Johnson.
Marquavious Johnson ran for over 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. He should have another big year this year as a senior.
Knightdale's strength is its speed. The Knights may be undersized compared to other teams, but they make up for that with their quickness on both sides of the ball. Against Wake Forest, Knightdale will be going up against another team with very good team speed, so we may find out how much of an issue size is.
Wake Forest will have a very good offensive backfield again this year. The Cougars return senior running back Devante Reynolds who ran for 700 yards and five touchdowns last season, and junior running back Bryce Love who ran for almost 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Quarterback Mack Moore is also back after completing 24-of-44 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns.
The Cougars will be able to match the speed of Knightdale at most positions, but can they contain the Johnson boys?
4:15 PM - Southern Durham vs. Wakefield
The Spartans come in with much more experience than they had last year. After taking some losses last year, Southern Durham moves down to 3-A this season and is expected to be a favorite in the eastern part of the state.
NC State recruit Maurice Trowell will be a senior leader for Southern. The senior wide receiver caught 48 passes for almost 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Fellow senior wide receiver Derrick Mason is also back after posting 572 receiving yards last season, scoring five times.
Quarterback Kendall Hinton, a junior, is the man to get the ball to the receivers. Hinton threw for 2,460 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, while running for 448 yards.
Southern should have a high-powered offense and they have the capability to put up a lot of points very quickly.
Wakefield has given up a lot of points in a short amount of time in certain games over the past two seasons, but the Wolverines' defense should be a strong point this season. Wakefield's defense returns seven starters from last year, and the Wolverines will get a good test from Southern Durham on Saturday afternoon.
Offensively, Wakefield lost nine starters, including record-breaking quarterback Connor Mitch and record-breaking wide receiver Jordan Fieulleteau. How do the new offensive starters step up and fill those shoes? Quarterback Evan Brabrand has looked good over the summer. Southern Durham's quickness and athleticism will be a test for the offense of Wakefield as well.
5:30 PM - Middle Creek vs. Heritage
Middle Creek is also breaking in a new quarterback, but like Wakefield, the new quarterback for the Mustangs has looked good all summer. Brant Grisel, a junior, steps into the quarterback spot at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He has a good arm, and his accuracy has been deadly in 7-on-7 competitions. He has good receivers to throw to, including Curtis Burston, who caught 54 passes for 850 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior last season. Look for senior receiver Jay Schuller to make a big impact on offense this season as well.
Middle Creek's defense returns eight starters from last season, and should be capable of stopping offenses this season. Defensive back Terrace White, linebacker King Kiaku, and lineman Drew McBeth were all-conference selections last season.
A transfer from Cary will also be big for Middle Creek's defense. Warren Messer, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound all-conference linebacker for the Imps last season, will likely be a starter for the Mustangs this season.
The Huskies are looking to make a statement on Saturday. Heritage posted a 6-6 record last season, and with seven starters on offense and six starters on defense coming back, Heritage is expected to be even better this year.
Junior quarterback Blake Walters returns for Heritage. He's a three-year starter for the Huskies who made big plays last year. Senior running back Abdul Sesay will be a go-to player in the backfield as well. Sesay ran for 850 yards last season.
Heritage has a very strong offensive and defensive line as well.
One area coach told me this could be a third round game in the playoffs, so if that holds true, this should be one heck of a preseason scrimmage.
6:45 PM - Southeast Raleigh vs. Panther Creek
Southeast Raleigh put together a 6-6 season last year, but the Bulldogs lost some games they felt they should have won. This year, Southeast Raleigh looks to rebound and get back in the top part of the Greater Neuse River Conference.
The Bulldogs return 13 starters this season, with a lot of experience returning in the defensive secondary. Jeremiah Rowland posted 65 tackles, two interceptions and 15 pass breakups last season, and he returns for his senior year. Junior defensive back Jaquell Taylor also had a big 2012 season, with 20 tackles and five interceptions.
The linebackers will also be strong for Southeast. Junior Timarcus Simpson had 73 tackles last year, while David Onyiego, also a junior, posted 84 tackles.
Aschod Meeks-Ewing will likely be the go-to running back for Southeast Raleigh. Meeks-Ewing ran for 344 yards on 45 carries last season.
Panther Creek is also looking to rebound this season after winning just one game last year. Head coach Sean Crocker, who was in his first year as the coach at Panther Creek last season, has said the coaches and players have learned a lot since.
Ten starters return on defense for Panther Creek, including star defensive linemen J.T Wise and Terrence Laster. Laster plays defensive end, but can also play the linebacker position.
Dorrell McClain will be a play-maker on offense for the Catamounts. He was an all-conference performer last season, playing running back and defensive back as a junior.
Quarterback Brendan Magner is also back with a year of experience under his belt. Crocker told HighSchoolOT.com this summer that Magner has worked very hard to improve, and he is expects the offensive to be more productive this season.
Both defenses are expected to be pretty good in this match-up, so how do the offenses perform? That's what I'll be watching in this game.
Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT