Football teams at both county high schools open the season at home Friday night.
East Bladen, a third-round playoff victim a year ago, will be host to traditional 2-A power Clinton while West Bladen will welcome South Brunswick. Kickoff at each site is 7:30 p.m.
In Elizabethtown, the Dark Horses of the East Central Conference are coming off a 15-0 loss in their opener at Cape Fear. Cory Johnson is the first-year head coach who has followed veteran Bob Lewis.
“They are still majority run,” Eagles’ head coach Robby Priest said. “Defensively, they’re a little different and I heard that’s his forte. They fly around and get to the ball.”
Johnson, yet to turn 30, was defensive coordinator at 4-A power Scotland County before getting his first head coaching job.
“They’re very fast, physical and big up front,” Priest said. “I like how they get to the ball on defense. Offensively, they come off the ball good. The quarterback is scary, they’ve got a big fullback that we’ve seen in the past. They’ve got some athletes that can go get it.”
Priest said the matchup leans to Clinton being bigger up front, with East Bladen having its “hands full.”
“We’ve got all but two guys on defense running 4.5 or better,” he said, referring to 40-yard dash times. “We’ve got the speed over there. It’s a matter of whether they’re getting to the right spot at the right time and making a play.”
August preseason work, the coach says, has been solid from defensive tackle and fullback Jordan Payton, two-way lineman Jordan Stanley, running back and outside linebacker Eric Chancy, defensive end Tyvon Townsend, and wide receiver and safety Rasean McKoy. Payton, Chancy and Townsend are seniors, Stanley is a junior and McKoy is a sophomore.
“I’ve been pleased with all of them,” Priest said of his squad.
He’s also ready for the shift from scrimmages with multiple teams two weeks ago to a game plan against a single foe week to week.
“That’s the part I like, the game plannning, seeing if we can stop what they like to do, make them go to a Plan B or Plan C, and our part, making sure we’ve got that in place,” Priest said. “That’s the part I like, and the players have responded the same way.”
In Dublin, the Cougars of the Mideastern Conference will visit coming off a 38-12 home loss to Red Springs of the Three Rivers Conference.
“They’re not bad,” head coach Kris Williams said of Rocky Lewis’ 3-A squad. “They’re athletic, and they’ve got a few big kids. I don’t think they’re bad at all.”
The second-year head coach says South Brunswick’s offense has changed to a wing-T similar to the Knights.
“Sometimes, they’ll get in a pistol version of it,” Williams said. “And of course, they have the capability to get in the full shotgun, but they don’t seem to do that a whole terrible lot.”
The coach said Red Springs’ strength was a decisive factor a week ago. He was clear that the Red Devils just came straight at the Cougars more than just running over them.
“Red Springs kind of runs right at you,” he said. “They have a power scheme, power backs, and run right at you.
“Defensively, their scheme looks similar to what they did last year. It varies a little bit, depending on the down. Primarily they are in a 4-4, but against us, they’ll put of those outside backers right outside the defensive ends and on the line of scrimmage. It kind of looks more like a 5-2. They do put two safeties out there.”
West Bladen’s preseason has gone well, the coach says. Focal points for the Cougars will undoubtedly be on Knights senior Kerron Washington and junior quarterback Tyre Boykin in the backfield.
West Bladen will need the productivity of junior Tra’shawn Ballard at fullback and inside linebacker. The head coach praised the work of sophomore Xzavion Morrison and junior Nathan Landreth on the line of scrimmage.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.