11/10/11 — James Kenan ready for Red Springs

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James Kenan ready for Red Springs

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 10, 2011 1:48 PM

James Kenan's players, coaches and fans are confident the perennial 1-A football powerhouse is on the cusp of returning to prominence.

But the Tigers face another stern test Friday evening against Red Springs in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA Mideast region playoffs. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

It's the first-ever postseason meeting between the two schools.

"They're pretty good," said Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. "It's going to be a tough one. They're like us. They're fast, they've got good size and they get after it pretty good."

The second-seeded Red Devils (9-2 overall) finished runners-up to state-ranked and unbeaten Fairmont in 1-A/2-A Three Rivers Conference play. They've won three straight and six of their last seven.

Red Springs fashioned a 1-10 record just two years ago.

Sophomore quarterback Blake Greene directs the Red Devils' offense, which began as a Wing-T but morphed into a spread scheme. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder has thrown for more than 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

Senior Xavier McEachern (5-8, 185) spearheads a backfield that has churned out significant yardage this season. Red Springs averages more than 36 points a game, and have posted 40 or more points in seven outings this season.

"We haven't seen any spread offenses this season," said Avent Jr. "The run and throw out of it, so they're going to be a handful defensively. We have to keep an eye on their quarterback and their running back."

James Kenan (7-4) abandoned its offense after losing senior quarterback Parker Jones to a concussion -- the third of his career. The Tigers scrapped their entire playbook and revived the Wing-T scheme, which has proven beneficial since early September.

The Tigers are 7-1 in their last eight contests with the only hiccup occurring against archrival Wallace-Rose Hill, the state's top-ranked 1-A team and winner of 39 consecutive games.

"We have to keep doing what we're doing, and hope it's good enough," said Avent Jr. "I think we have been running the ball well, holding onto it and that's been the key. The defense has been getting better and better as the year has gone on, and that's been real big for us.

"Not making mistakes on offense has helped, too."

The backfield tandem of Devon Best and Marcelias Sutton has provided a staunch 1-2 punch for the Tigers. Best has rambled for 1,133 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Sutton has grinded out 993 yards and five touchdowns.

The two have combined for 304 carries.

Quarterback Dominique Barnes, who was supposed to start for the JV team, was called into duty once doctors benched Jones. Barnes' responsibilities have been limited in the misdirection offense, and he hasn't been called upon to throw the ball.

Kenan didn't attempt a pass in last week's monsoon-like conditions against East Columbus.

"Dominique has done a good job of taking advantage of the speed we've got in the backfield," said Avent Jr. "The Wing-T is stuff we did five years ago, but none of these guys really know it. It's been a learning experience for them and to put in a new package after the third week, they've done well."

Senior middle linebacker Raheim Phillips has recorded 116 stops for a defense yielded just six touchdowns in the past 20 quarters of action. Junior lineman Jaylan Williams and junior linebacker Thomas Owens have collected 67 and 60 tackles, respectively.