08/20/13 — James Kenan tabbed to rule Carolina 1-A Conference in football this season

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James Kenan tabbed to rule Carolina 1-A Conference in football this season

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on August 20, 2013 1:47 PM


Football coaches in the newly-realigned Carolina 1-A Conference have picked an overwhelming favorite to win the league in 2013.

Beyond that, everything else is a toss-up.

James Kenan received six of the seven first-place votes in a preseason poll conducted by the News-Argus. The Tigers finished 13-1 a year ago and reached the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-AA (large-school) eastern regional championship game.

Lakewood earned second place with five second-place votes and one first-place vote. Princeton, the 1-A eastern regional runner-up in 2012, tallied a pair of second-place votes and finished third in the balloting.

Rosewood, North Duplin, Hobbton and Spring Creek complete the seven-team league. Neuse Charter is also a member, but does not play football.

Kenan returns the majority of its roster from 2012, including senior running back Marcelias Sutton, who has verbally committed to N.C. State. Sutton rushed for 1,771 yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago.

The Tigers begin the season at home against 3-A opponent Southern Wayne before county archrival Wallace-Rose Hill visits Warsaw. Kenan also visits Union and East Duplin before starting Carolina 1-A play at home Sept. 27 against Princeton.

"We're going to have to get off to a good start," Tigers' head coach Ken Avent said. "Our non-conference schedule is very tough and it should prepare us for the conference. We're not looking ahead. The key is to take it one game at a time."

Lakewood, which played in the Tri-County with Kenan and Hobbton last season, went 7-4 in 2012. The Leopards were routed in the first round of the state playoffs by former TCC rival Union 42-7. Lakewood returns a large senior class, including quarterback J.J. Tanner and tailback Haywood Mack.

The Leopards open the season at home against Union and begin conference play at Spring Creek.

"We're glad to be back in the Carolina 1-A for the first time since the mid-90's," Lakewood head coach James Lewis said. "I think it's going to be a very competitive league."

Princeton returns 11 starters from last season, including junior quarterback Michael Wooten and tailback Johnny Frasier. The Bulldogs went 1-4 in conference play a year ago before defeating league opponents North Duplin and Rosewood in the postseason.

Building off the momentum of last season's playoff run and starting strong before conference play has been a focal point of Princeton's summer workouts.

"Our conference lost two powerhouses and I feel like we gained two powerhouses in James Kenan and Lakewood," Bulldogs' head coach Derrick Minor said. "The non-conference is going to be huge for us coming off a strong end to last season. Building some momentum in the non-conference can carry you through the season."

Princeton kicks off its season at home against East Carteret.

Rosewood compiled a 5-8 record a year ago and lost at home in the third round of the state playoffs to Princeton. Roughly 50 varsity and junior varsity players have participated in the Eagles' summer practices.

Quarterback Jacob Sasser and receiver Jamari McGowan return to a team that went 2-3 against conference opponents in 2012.

"In our conference against the quality opponents you're going to play every Friday night you're going to have to bring your 'A' game," Rosewood head coach Robert Britt said. "You're going to have to be well coached up and have your kids willing to play hard every down."

The Eagles open their season at Charles B. Aycock and begin conference play at home Sept. 27 against Hobbton.

North Duplin went 7-4 last season with a 3-2 mark in conference play. The Rebels saw their season end at home with a loss to Princeton in the first round of the state playoffs.

Attempting to fill the voids left by quarterback Tyler Royal and fullback Julio Mora has been an ongoing process all summer. North Duplin begins its season at Chocowinity Southside and starts conference play at home Sept. 27 against Lakewood.

Spring Creek failed to win a game in 2012. The Gators return all-purpose back DeVonte Faison and quarterback Anthony Russo along with seven other offensive starters. Head coach Aaron Sanders has perhaps the largest team he's had in his tenure in Seven Springs.

Spring Creek kicks off its season against Dixon.