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When the defense of the Southern Nash High varsity football team started to take on injuries last season, the natural reaction was to shuffle players around into different positions.
Even though the Firebirds won their third straight 3-A Big East Conference championship in 2018 and finished with an undefeated regular season, the hits came early for a team with high expectations.
Three starters were lost to injury in the first two weeks of the season, leaving production to be filled at key spots. Versatility would go a long way towards addressing these sudden needs.
Enter Lamont Williams.
Williams, a lineman on both sides of the ball for the Firebirds, took on responsibilities at the defensive end position and played fullback later in the season. Adding reps at guard and tight end, Williams helped patch the holes for a Southern Nash team that hasn’t lost a Big East game in 16 tries, including unbeaten conference runs in each of the last three seasons.
Williams, who will continue his football career at NCAA Division II Wingate University, will have one more high school football stop to make after being selected for the North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game, set for next Wednesday at Jamieson Stadium on the campus of Greensboro Grimsley.
Williams joins a rich collection of Southern Nash alumni in the summer gridiron classic, marking the 23rd Firebird to be selected. Head coach Brian Foster directed the East to a 10-10 tie in 2014 with the use of Southern’s vaunted double-wing offense.
“I’m a quick learner,” Williams said in a telephone interview Thursday. “But I didn’t like playing defensive end.”
Even though his defensive end responsibilities often required him to set the edge and keep opposing running backs inside on containment as opposed to simply getting up the field after the ball carrier as a defensive tackle, Williams was an influencer when locating the football by closing a gap or using a line stunt to get into the backfield.
He finished as Southern Nash’s leading tackler in an 11-game season, racking up 63 tackles and tying with Kedric Anderson for the team lead in tackles for loss with 19. Williams tallied four sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another in expanding his responsibilities after senior defensive end Ricky Knight was lost to injury four games in.
“He did a lot of good things,” Foster said of Williams. “When you can move a kid around in what you’re trying to get done...he’s a kid that works hard on technique.”
At 5-foot-11 and 290 pounds, Foster said that Williams can make up for his lack of size with his discipline and attention to detail with leverage and pad level.
“As far as going to Wingate, he’s in a situation where he can do the things he needs to do to help him have a chance,” Foster said.
Offensively, Williams helped block for Southern Nash’s powerful running game, which finished the season with 4,850 yards on the ground behind N.C. State freshman Zonovan Knight and rising Firebirds senior Quinton Cooley.
“They made it easy,” Williams said of Knight and Cooley.
Williams’ season didn’t end without one career highlight. Already seeing playing time in the Southern Nash backfield, Williams made his own contribution to the robust rushing total when he plowed in from five yards out in a 72-50 win over Northern Nash.
“All the kids were wanting to see what could happen,” Foster said. “All of the big guys dream about getting a score.”
Added Williams: “It felt good! It was my first touchdown ever. It made me happy.”