08/19/10 — FOOTBALL TAB -- James Kenan preview

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FOOTBALL TAB -- James Kenan preview

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 19, 2010 2:23 PM

The days of eating comfortably from past successes lapsed a little bit for James Kenan football fans last season.

The Tigers played for the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA championship in 2006 and won it all in 2007. A third-round upset loss to Midway ended an unbeaten campaign in 2008, and Kenan experienced an uncharacteristic 7-6 season in 2009.

Those four squads were a combined 50-8.

They undoubtedly elevated the standard and changed the culture among the Warsaw, Kenansville and Magnolia communities. Tiger fans are ready to feast again, but will depend on perhaps Ken Avent Jr.'s youngest group of players to provide the sweet taste of victory on Friday nights this fall.

Seven starters and 14 lettermen are back.

And none want to relive last season's experience.

"It's helped motivate us a little bit and the boys have talked about that they don't want to go through that again," said Avent Jr., who begins his fifth season in Warsaw. "Just like always, you try to work hard in the offseason and I think we've had a good offseason. They've got a good mentality of any group we've had so far.

"Our varsity guys were here all summer."

Avent Jr. admits the team replaces a substantial number of starters on offense and defense. This time, instead of seeing senior step into those roles, there will be an unusual number of juniors and sophomore who will see extended playing time on the varsity level.

Junior quarterback Parker James (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) returns for his first full season under center. Junior Mikael Moore and senior James Owens are back at wide receiver, while Delante Miller (6-0, 230) and Tyler Haney (5-11, 225) will anchor the offensive line.

Sophomores Jaylan Williams and Bobby Wilson will work in the trenches. Senior defensive end Dontrill Hyman (6-4, 255) and linebacker Jamie Gonzalez (5-9, 180) are expected to provide much-needed leadership.

Jonathan Webster, who recorded a team-leading five picks last season, and A.J. Frederick will bring additional athleticism to the team.

"Offensively, our problem is going to be depth and we're going to have some players going both ways, so we have to be in shape," said Avent Jr., who has a 101-33 career record. "That's going to be a big thing early in the year with good conditioning and staying in shape. Defensively, we're a little ahead of where we were last year and we feel pretty good about that.

"We should be quicker than we were last year. We have pretty good size ... nothing too small and I think we'll be solid."

James Kenan kicks off a challenging and brutal non-conference schedule at home Friday against Clinton. The Tigers also face perennial powers East Bladen and East Duplin, and open their Tri-County season Sept. 24 at Union.

Avent Jr.'s team finished 4-3 in league play after seizing three consecutive Super Six championships from 2006-08.

"We'll definitely be tested when get to the conference," said Avent Jr. "Every game we play is going to expose every weakness that we've got and that's what happened last year. We need to win non-conference games to build up our confidence and last year, we played better as the year went on.

"Everybody in the conference was fairly young last year. It was tough last year and I think it's going to be tougher this year."