Prep football roundup
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 4, 2009 11:32 AM
SEVEN SPRINGS -- The first day of fall sports practice began on Saturday and every local gridiron squad has taken advantage of the opportunity to get on the field.
Second-year Spring Creek head coach Aaron Sanders was happy to see 26 potential varsity players during the opening day of camp. The Gators return 12 players off last year's team.
"We had the potential for 13 guys to come back this year and of those, 12 are on the field," said Sanders. "Right now we are just trying to put guys in the right positions based on athleticism and experience."
The biggest hang-up during the first two practices in "The Swamp" has been an issue with a batch of new helmets.
"We ordered some new helmets and when they got here they were two different colors," said Sanders. "I sent them back and when they re-shipped them to me the company sent the wrong color again. So now we are in a position where we are making do with what we have."
However, the top priority for Sanders has been keeping players healthy. Practices throughout this week will run from 6-8 p.m. to avoid the 90-degree temperatures that are expected to consume the afternoon hours.
Nick Hatem has seized the starting quarterback job on the Gators' offense. Hunter Barnett will serve as Hatem's backup. A full stable of backs has provided the first highlights of the 2009 campaign. Eastern Wayne transfers Jonathan Midgette and Ryan Jones will add depth to a talented pool of runners.
"Right now we're kind of sitting on a ledge," said Sanders. "We can be much improved if we keep working hard, but at the same time we have to keep everyone healthy and on the field."
From an outsider's prospective, it would appear that the backfield at North Duplin is one of the team's most-stable units.
Not so, says Rebels head coach Hugh Martin.
"We have some good players coming back, but no position is set in stone at this point," he said. "We have to see some more in practice before we start making decisions."
One luxury the Rebels have is a stable of experienced signal callers. Marcus Kornegay started each game last season in Calypso and Alan Schilling, who is fully healthy following a knee injury last year, are battling for snaps.
Devin Oliver heads a corps of capable running backs that will be forced to fill the void left by all-Carolina Conference selection Akeem Cox.
"Right now the important thing is the conditioning," said Martin. "We are trying to get these guys ready so that once we start full-contact practices we will be ready to hit and be hit."
Further down in Duplin County, players at James Kenan embraced off-season workouts and the opening day in practice was a "strength in numbers." More than 70 prospective Tigers reported to the fieldhouse.
"We have a lot of guys that just love football," said fourth-year head coach Ken Avent Jr.. "We had really good attendance for our lifting during the summer and all of those guys are pumped up to finally get on the field."
Always the position of interest around Kenansville, quarterback will once again be in the spotlight as Dasmine Smith takes over for departed Shawon Darden. Jonathan Webster is expected to assume the backup duties.
"Dasmine did a good job last year as the backup and he has really progressed going into this season," said Avent Jr. "We have the luxury of having a quarterback in every grade from senior through sophomore."
Southern Wayne kicked off its season during the witching hour Saturday morning. The Saints got down to business Monday and took frequent breaks to stay hydrated in humid practice conditions.
"We have to keep guys healthy and make sure everyone can get used to the heat," said head coach Bob Warren. "We practice at 4 p.m. so it is that much more important to keep the water jugs filled."
Southern Wayne has to replace several play makers before its season opener Aug. 21. Running back James Jones, quarterback Jordan Williams; and defensive ends Scott Holloman and Desmond Raiford have graduated.
More than 30 players are suited up for the Saints, who will continue to run their traditional wing-T offense this season.
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