12/08/12 — Tigers accept roles, compile 13-1 record

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Tigers accept roles, compile 13-1 record

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on December 8, 2012 11:54 PM

There are many ways to define what makes a coach successful on the football field.

Some are great motivators. Some are great strategists. And others are great game managers.

James Kenan head coach Ken Avent Jr., who has been named the 2012 News-Argus All-Area Football Coach-of-the-Year, does not consider himself any of those things. He just tries to get the best out of his players in a game that always seems to impart harsh life lessons.

For 13 weeks this fall, the Tigers enjoyed the thrill of victory. A loss to Southwest Onslow in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA (large school) playoffs saddled the squad with its only defeat.

"I don't want to say that going 13-1 this season was a surprise because we always have high expectations," Avent Jr. said. "But with some of the young guys we had stepping into major roles, I was really pleased with how fast we matured."

The Tigers opened the season with a win over Southern Wayne and followed with consecutive non-conference victories over Jones Senior and East Duplin. Each of those games were low-scoring affairs as the Tigers learned the ropes of Avent Jr.'s Wing-T offense.

Once Tri-County Conference play began, the James Kenan offense took off. In their seven wins versus league opponents the Tigers averaged 36 points per game and rolled to nearly 400 yards rushing per game.

"We had some guys really step up on the offensive line and that allowed our backs to learn on the job," Avent Jr. said. "Going forward into next year, we bring all of our skill players back, but we have to find some new players to fit in on the line and that is going to be our focus."

As good as the Tigers performed on offense in the regular season, their defense was just as good. James Kenan allowed just 8.5 points per game and recorded five shutouts on the year.

The Tigers won games in a variety of ways in the playoffs -- a blowout of East Montgomery, a grinding game over Union and a shootout against Red Springs.

"We had moments where we did a lot of things well on both sides of the football," Avent Jr. said. "I think that you have to be versatile as a team and not let the game get away from you no matter if the score is 13-7 or 62-48."

Looking ahead 2013, the Tigers will certainly be the object of much scrutiny. The team will move out of the TCC and into the Carolina 1-A Conference where they will be immediate favorites to claim the league title.

"It's going to be an adjustment for sure, but I think it is something our kids are looking forward to," Avent Jr. said. "We are excited to build some new rivalries with the teams in the Carolina 1-A and see what that league holds."