News-Argus Football Coach of the Year --Ken Avent Jr.
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 25, 2011 1:48 PM
The James Kenan football team learned in unique fashion this season that success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.
Only the accomplishments occurred day to day.
You see, the Tigers lost senior quarterback Parker Jones when doctors benched him for the season after he suffered the third concussion of his career in week two.
"We thought with the quarterback and receivers we had (coming back), a strong passing game would give us the best chance to win a conference championship ... maybe a state championship," said sixth-year Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr.
Hmm, so much for that playbook.
James Kenan scrapped its passing game, re-installed the misdirection Wing-T offense and reeled off six consecutive wins after an 0-3 start to the season. The Tigers emerged runners-up in Tri-County 1-A Conference play and advanced to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA (large school) playoffs.
"Parker was a great leader for us. It was definitely a challenge, but give our guys, especially our seniors credit, they still came to practice every day and worked hard," said Avent Jr., who has been named the 2011 News-Argus All-Area Football Coach of the Year.
"Our senior leadership was the biggest reason for our success without a doubt."
Jones' season-ending injury occurred against Jones Senior, and forced Avent Jr. and his staff to burn the midnight oil since perennial power East Duplin was next on the schedule.
Two receivers moved to the defensive side of the ball.
The offensive line had to retool itself to sustain blocks in the assignment-based scheme. The running backs had to hit spaces quickly and hopefully break containment at the second level against opposing defenses.
"You just have to work with the hand you are dealt," said Avent Jr. "You let them know that adversity is going to strike. It's a matter of how you handle it, and we handled it well. I've seen teams fold tent, but our kids never did.
"That's just amazing to me."
The Tigers, over the next six weeks, scored 20-plus points in every game and limited the opposition to one touchdown in five of those contests.
They coaxed defending state champion Wallace-Rose Hill into six turnovers in the regular-season finale for both teams, but lost 16-6. Avent Jr. couldn't have been more pleased with his team's maturity.
"We were doing stuff at the end of the year that you normally do in the summer to prepare you for the season," said Avent Jr. "As the offense got better, it all got better at the right time and we were able to keep winning.
"We were as young as we've been and to lose your starting quarterback, it was a tricky situation. You can look back and feel good about what this team accomplished after what they went through."
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