08/16/12 — FOOTBALL TAB -- James Kenan: Avoiding injuries will determine Tigers' success

View Archive

FOOTBALL TAB -- James Kenan: Avoiding injuries will determine Tigers' success

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 16, 2012 1:48 PM

Could James Kenan fans finally see their football team dethrone county archrival Wallace-Rose Hill?

Quite possibly.

The Tigers return just 16 lettermen, including 12 starters, off last year's team that finished behind those pesky and talent-ladened Bulldogs in Tri-County 1-A Conference action. Team speed and a small senior class characterize this last Kenan squad, which hopes to snap the trend of three consecutive seven-win seasons.

But Kenan must remain healthy. Injuries, especially to key players, could lead to a repeat performance of last year.

"We started a freshman and five sophomores last year because of injuries and I think that's going to help us this year," Tigers head coach Ken Avent Jr. said. "(Staying healthy) is going to be the key. Last year, when we were healthy, we did pretty good.

"When we got injuries, we kind of struggled. If we can stay healthy, I like our chances."

Junior Dominique Barnes (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) will direct Kenan's I-formation offense. Barnes stepped into the starting role when Parker Jones, who graduated, suffered a season-ending concussion during the non-conference season.

Barnes used Marcelius Sutton (5-10, 170) and James Owens (5-10, 220) as the workhorses, who helped ignite a six-game win streak. The Tigers prevailed in seven of their final nine outings and advanced to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA (large-school) playoffs.

Seniors Jaylan Williams (6-3, 225) and Reggie Tyler (6-3, 295) are back on the line. Sophomore Donald Brinson (6-2, 220) also returns. Junior TJ Fullwood was Barnes' top receiver a year ago.

"Offensively, I think we'll be OK," Avent Jr. said. "We've got some good backs. We'll definitely run more than we throw. We have to hold onto the football and defensively we have to create turnovers."

Senior TK Owens, an all-Tri-County pick last season, spearheads the Tigers' 3-3 defense. He's joined by juniors Freddy Miller and Sam Melvin, and sophomore Juan Hooper.

"This is probably the smallest senior class we've had, but they've been good ones," Avent Jr. said. "Our sophomore and junior classes are pretty big groups, so hopefully we'll be good with them. Overall, I think we're pretty decent with good team speed.

"Depth will probably be our weakness."

Kenan has dropped its last three encounters against Wallace-Rose Hill. Avent Jr. considers the Dogs as the league front-runners and anticipates Lakewood, which returns 22 lettermen, to factor into the Tri-County title race, too.

The Tigers open their 2012 season at Southern Wayne. League play starts Sept. 14 against Union at Bill Taylor Field.

"I thought we played pretty good the last nine games last year," Avent Jr. "You just have to take it one game at a time because this time of year you really don't know what's going to happen.

"If you can win our conference, you've had a good year because our conference is really strong. It's not going to be easy."