11/01/12 — James Kenan begins 1-AA state-title quest

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James Kenan begins 1-AA state-title quest

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 1, 2012 1:49 PM

The title -- "We Meet Again" -- could be attached to tonight's game between James Kenan and East Montgomery in opening-round action of the 2012 N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA (large-school) football playoffs.

The Tigers are playing a Montgomery County team for the third time since 2007.

James Kenan owns a 2-0 advantage in the postseason series, including a nail-biting 13-7 triumph over West Montgomery in the 2007 state championship game. East Montgomery visited Warsaw in 2009 and was dealt a 34-6 loss in the first-round of the playoffs.

The Eagles bring a different coach -- Phil Collett -- to Bill Taylor Field.

And they've got a solid offense, too.

Senior Avery Jackson has thrown for nearly 800 yards, while backup freshman Colby Mannor has completed 55 percent of his passes for 262 yards. The duo has spread the wealth among seven receivers, including senior captain CJ Robinson (410 yards) and senior Ahmad Baldwin (362).

East Montgomery, the No. 8 seed in the Mideast Regional, will show different formations on each snap. Kenan, the No. 1 seed, will see the shotgun, Wing-T and schemes that include trips and quadruple-receiver looks.

"They've got pretty good team speed and they throw it a lot," seventh-year James Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr. said. "We're going to have to play good in the secondary because they have two good receivers who can go catch it ... have good height.

"We're going to have to get some pressure on the quarterback."

The Tigers defense hasn't given up anything lately.

James Kenan (10-0 overall) recorded four shutouts during a five-game stretch before yielding three touchdowns to county archrival Wallace-Rose Hill just six days ago. Overall, the defense has permitted just seven touchdowns in the last 28 quarters and has held opponents to 8.5 points a game this season.

Senior linemen Baird Kilpatrick and Michael Melendez lead the Tiger defense with 51 and 50 tackles, respectively. Kenan's defense has logged 13 sacks and forced 22 turnovers this season.

"We've done a good job playing defense all year," Avent Jr. said.

Marcelias Sutton, who is ranked among the area's top five rushers, has rambled for 1,214 yards on 136 carries. His longest run from scrimmage is 84 yards.

The Tigers have rushed for nearly 2,700 yards as a team and thrown for just 519 yards. They average 33.1 points a game.

"Friday night, I thought we did a real good job of running the football," Avent Jr. said. "We didn't create any turnovers and had two, which was a negative. We have to turn that around for the playoffs because that can cost you and it almost did Friday.

"The key (to advancing) is being focused and ready to play each week. You've got to be good and have some luck if you want to win a state championship. You kind of make your own breaks."