kenan-north johnston preview
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 15, 2007 3:20 PM
By ANDREW STEVENS
News-Argus Sports Writer
WARSAW -- It's a loss that's almost a year old, but its sting is so fresh it feels like it happened just yesterday.
James Kenan's 13-7 loss to Thomasville in last season's N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA (large school) championship game serves as painful reminder to the Tigers of exactly what it takes to achieve high school football's ultimate goal.
With a shot a state title redemption fueling the Tigers' fire, Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. isn't the least bit worried about his club overlooking their second-round matchup with North Johnston this Friday. Even with a potential third-round rematch with conference rival Wallace-Rose Hill looming in the distance.
"Our guys have done a great job getting ready each week," Avent Jr. said. "We just try to take it one game at a time. I think with having gone through it last year they realize that if they have a bad Friday night it can be all over. I think us getting as close to winning a state championship as we did has been good for us. They know what it takes."
The 10th-seeded Panthers (8-4) come into Warsaw off the heels of a 24-0 effort against Pamlico last week. North Johnston averages close to 25 points a contest and gives up 16.
However, the Panthers have shown the tendency to allow their share of points. In three of their four losses this season they've given up at least 21 points. That bodes well for a Tigers offense that puts up 36 points a ballgame.
Against Rosewood a week ago, the second-seeded Tigers (12-0) needed just three plays to get on the scoreboard, and led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. Kenan got rushing attempts from 10 different ball carriers, and receptions from five different players. That type of depth this time of year, not only keeps two-way players fresh, but it can also overwhelm and wear down defenses.
"I think that's good," Avent Jr. said of his team's stable of talent. "A lot of those guys play defense, but when they're ready, we're able to put them in there to make plays on offense. I think it's helped us all year long depth wise. Hopefully we can keep going like that."
Brandon Satchell continues to be Kenan's go-to guy out of the backfield, gaining 134 yards and two touchdowns against Rosewood. Satchell has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards, averages over six yards a carry and has found the end zone 17 times this season. Stedman Mathis gives the Tigers a second reliable rushing option, gaining close to 700 yards this season to go with 10 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, quarterback Shawn Jones continues to keep defenses honest through the air. The area's second-leading passer completes over 50 percent of his attempts, has thrown for over 1,000 yards and has tossed 12 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
While the Tigers tallied 446 yards and six touchdowns against Rosewood, it's the turnovers that has Avent Jr. a bit concerned. Kenan coughed the ball up five times last week, and has seven turnovers in its last three games. While they didn't prove to be much of a factor against the Eagles, turnovers, like any bad habit, will catch up with you sooner or later.
"(North Johnston) obviously plays pretty good defense," Avent Jr. said. "This time of year everybody is pretty good at this point. We have to do a better job of holding onto the football."
Defensively, Kenan continues to turn in one consistent performance after another, especially when it matters most. Earlier this month with the Super-Six 1-A Conference title on the line against Wallace-Rose Hill, the Tigers had two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a pair of sacks in a 24-16 win.
Opponents have averaged 7.5 points a game against Kenan thus far, and have scored in double digits just four times all season.
"We've played good defense all year," Avent Jr. said. "I just hope that continues."
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