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With practice time growing shorter as the first Friday night of the high school football season approaches, coaches are alternately excited about their teams and worried that they haven’t had enough time to prepare.
Beddingfield’s James Ward and Fike’s Tom Nelson will get to see their squads in action first with the Bruins and Golden Demons participating in scrimmages Wednesday before hitting the field again Friday in jamborees. Beddingfield will participate in a multi-team scrimmage Wednesday at Riverside High in Williamston and then head to Elizabeth City on Friday for a jamboree of North Carolina and Virginia teams at Northeastern High.
Fike became a late addition to the C.B. Aycock Jamboree on Wednesday while the Demons will host their jamboree for the eighth straight year Friday.
Hunt head coach Keith Byrum and Southern Nash’s Brian Foster will have to wait until Friday to observe their teams against other units. The Warriors will return to Cleveland High near Clayton for a multi-team scrimmage and Southern Nash is going to Campbell University in Buies Creek for the Harnett County Jamboree.
So far the biggest battle for Beddingfield and Fike has been against the rain that has permeated the area in recent days. The Bruins and Demons are practicing in the evening, making their practice time more vulnerable to inclement weather.
DEMONS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
“I feel good about our team,” Nelson said. “We have just been bogged down with bad weather. We haven’t been able to get all we wanted to get done because we haven’t had enough dry weather, enough spaces to be able to go. So, that’s just part of it.
“We’ll find out more tomorrow night. I thought our first night of contact last night was pretty good, although it was soggy and the footing was pretty bad.”
Nelson cited the development of the offensive line and the kicking game as primary preseason concerns. For the first time in several years, Fike doesn’t have a kicking specialist — or two — as twin brothers John and Walker Gliarmis have graduated and will join the Appalachian State program. Nelson said Logan Davis will be the punter while Josh Avery, the Demons senior quarterback, and Aaron Bancroft, a junior linebacker, will share kicking duties.
Fike was initially supposed to participate in a scrimmage at East Duplin along with Havelock and Wilmington Laney on Wednesday but excessive rainfall left the Panthers’ facility in Beulaville unavailable. So the Demons will head to Pikeville for the Aycock Jamboree along with Laney, Hobbton and Ayden-Grifton.
Friday night, Fike will welcome D.H. Conley, Rolesville and Corinth Holders to its jamboree at Buddy Bedgood Stadium, which will be the site of the Demons’ season opener Aug. 17 against Northern Durham.
BRUINS TAKING FORM
Beddingfield was able to hold its first full-contact practice Saturday just after midnight after the final North Carolina High School Athletic Association-mandated conditioning practice Friday night. That late-night practice was the only hitting the Bruins have done since they were forced in the gym by Monday evening’s storm.
“It was a steady drizzle but more lightning,” Ward said. “We didn’t even try to fight it. We didn’t want to put the kids in jeopardy with the lightning so we went inside. … So we’re going down there tomorrow night with one hour of hitting under our belts. We’ll find out what we can do!”
Ward said there would be no contact at Tuesday evening’s practice session.
“I don’t want them to be sore tomorrow,” he explained.
The Bruins will be part of a four-team session Wednesday at Riverside Martin along with fellow 2-A Eastern Plains Conference foe North Pitt as well as Pasquotank County and Elizabeth City Northeastern. All four of those teams will be in Elizabeth City on Friday, along with Havelock, First Flight and Manteo, as Northeastern hosts a jamboree pitting North Carolina teams against several from Virginia.
While numbers are still extremely low, Ward remains optimistic the Bruins will field a junior varsity team once conference play begins. With Nash Central and Franklinton also canceling their J.V. non conference schedules, Beddingfield isn’t alone in that regard. However, Ward has been encouraged by what he’s seen from his varsity players.
“I feel real good about everything,” he said. “The number situation and depth but we’re used to that at Beddingfield, not having depth.
… We’ve got eight coming back on both sides of the ball. Last year’s in the books but we played a lot of young guys last year. We got ‘em in the weight room and I feel like we’re bigger, stronger, faster.”
Still, Ward doesn’t foresee too many of players having to start on offense and defense.
“I think tomorrow there’s going to be a lot of snaps now. We’ll have some people going both ways for Friday, as far as two-way starters, I think we’ll only have three back there. We play 2-A football and normally you have about five going both ways.”
The Bruins will host Oxford Webb in the first regular-season game Aug. 17.
WARRIORS GETTING IN REPS
By holding morning practices, Hunt has avoided bad weather. However, Byrum said that the two days of full contact had not yielded the intensity for which he had hoped.
“We’ve still got some guys who need to take it up a notch as far as their intensity level,” Byrum said. “It might be because it’s a little warmer or because we have on more gear but we’ve got some that look a little lethargic. But we’ve got a lot of others who are pushing them and pushing themselves and basically giving us everything that they’ve got. I’m real pleased with the leadership of the group of people that we’ve got here now.”
Byrum, in his third season as Warriors head coach, allowed that Tuesday morning’s workout was much better than Monday.
“We just need to get that intensity level high and have a sense of urgency. We can’t get complacent,” he said.
Byrum said that senior Nathan Lemmons would probably be the starting quarterback in Friday’s scrimmage but that classmate Andrew Jones and junior Dalton Garwood would get some reps.
Hunt returns a number of players at the skill positions, including seniors Isaiah Watson, Jihren Strickland and Dionte Alson, as well as the Warriors top rusher last season, junior Tiquez Taylor.
Senior Christian Phaby, who has been invited to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl in Tampa in January, anchors the defensive line.
While Hunt seems to have the pieces in place to shake the doldrums of the past two seasons, each of which the Warriors managed just three wins, it comes back to the mental aspect, Byrum said.
“We just need to get that intensity level high and have a sense of urgency. We can’t get complacent,” he insisted.
The Warriors will be joined by Cary Green Hope and Southern Durham on Friday at Cleveland. Hunt opens its season Aug. 17 at Eastern Wayne.
Byrum wasn’t the only coach not completely happy with his team Tuesday morning. By 8:45 a.m. Foster was fuming as he stalked the practice field at Southern Nash, before halting all activity and sending all players into board drills, where two players line up against one another and try to drive the other one backwards.
“They just need to learn to go. This ain’t real fun,” Foster said of the impromptu activity. “We’ve got people strolling in late. That ain’t what we do. And they know that. They’re tired, they’re sore and they’re feeling sorry for themselves. That’s life though.
“You hear me saying they’re going to be givers or takers. We want givers, not takers.”
Southern Nash has gone undefeated in the 3-A Big East Conference and won 12 games each of the past two seasons, but Foster knows better than anyone that is no assurance of success for this year’s team.
The Firebirds have a completely new starting offensive line and just five starters back on defense. Halfback Zonovan Knight, who has committed to N.C. State, and defensive end Ricky Knight, an Elon commit, headline a 22-member senior class that will look to maintain the excellence in Stanhope.
The Firebirds kick off their season at home Aug. 17 against Green Hope.