: — Leesville Road High will get an early start on its football season by starting its first practice at 12:01 a.m. on Monday.
N.C. High School Athletic Association teams can begin official team practices on Monday and Pride coach Chad Smothers said his kids wanted to get started as soon as possible.
We did it last year and the kids got a kick out of it, Smothers said. They kept asking if we were going to do it again. I think that they are really excited about getting started after working out during the summer.
The Pride reached the NCHSAA 4AA quarterfinals in 2011 and finished 12-1.
One of the Prides keys this year is expected to be quarterback. Graduated Austin Berrios was outstanding behnd center last year until he was knocked out of the lineup with an injury.
Junior Braxton Berrios, an exceptional wide receiver, moved to quarterback after the injury to his older brother and was superb. Braxton Berrios finished with 1,251 yards rushing, 389 yards passing and 519 yards in receptions.
Braxton Berrios is expected to battle with senior Evan Parker, who started at quarterback at Sanderson last year, and junior Malcolm Hitchcock, who was the Prides backup QB most of last year, for the starting quarterback job.
We want to make the decision that gives us the best team, Smothers said.
Smothers said he thought the Cap Eight was the strongest league in the state last year with the Pride, Wakefield and Wake Forest-Rolesville.
Wakefield is the likely league favorite this year with the return of Connor Mitch, who is ranked among the top quarterbacks in the country. Mitch is committed to South Carolina and receiver Jordan Fieulleteau is committed to North Carolina.
I think (Wake Forest-Rolesvilles) Reggie Lucas is one of the best high school coaches in the state, Smothers said. Weve got some people back, but there are some places where we need untested guys to come through for us.
Heritage looks good: Jason McGeorge, the football coach at Heritage High, has almost his entire team back from last years 3-8 season.
Heritage opened in the fall of 2010 with only freshmen and sophomores. The team played a junior varsity schedule that season before fielding a varsity squad last year.
The Huskies return 10 starters on offense, including sophomore quarterback Blake Walters (800 yards passing), all-conference offensive tackle Lucas Seitz and receiver Garrett Hudson, who averaged 15.8 yards per reception.
The defense also has 10 starters back, including leading tackler Rob Powers (48 tackles) and junior strong safety Charles Clark.
When youre talking about the top contenders in the Cap Eight dont forget Heritage, said Broughton coach Chris Martin. Theyve got everybody back and I think they are going to have a very good team.
Leesvilles Smothers said history indicates the Huskies should be good. In the past, the new high schools in Wake County have had very good football seasons when they have their first senior class, Smothers said. Thats Heritage this year.
McGeorge said his team has worked extremely hard in the offseason and he is glad that the program is earning some respect.
We want to be competitive, he said. Our goal is for people to know that weve worked hard and have gotten better. But the Cap Eight is really good. There are some great teams in the conference.
Baker to Coastal: Former Wake Christian Academy kicker Storm Baker has signed with Coastal Carolina.
Baker was a 2011 Wake Christian graduate and attended Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military last year. Baker averaged 46 yards per punt and made a 48-yard field goal at Hargrave.
On my visit to Coastal, I just knew it was the right place, Baker said. The coaches were absolutely awesome, I like the way they run practice and I know its somewhere I can fit in and get better.
Hartley joins Panther staffFormer Princeton High three-sport standout Jonathan Hartley has been named as wrestling coach at former rival North Johnston.
Hartley played on Princetons 2007 baseball championship team and also played football and wrestled.
Once I decided to go into teaching, coaching was something that just went hand-in-hand for me, Hartley said. Having grown up in athletics, its something Ive always loved and wrestling is a sport I love to teach.
Mellow Mushroom: The Mellow Mushroom Pigskin Classic high school scrimmage will be at Wake Forest-Rolesville High on Friday, Aug. 10. Cary, Heritage, Middle Creek, Sanderson and Oxford Webb will each scrimmage in two of the three sessions.
Leesville Road and Wake Forest-Rolesville each is scheduled to scrimmage in one session. The 8 p.m. session has Wake Forest vs. Middle Creek and Leesville vs. Cary.
N&O top 20: The N&O is expanding its weekly high school football rankings to 20 teams this season. The top five teams were pretty easy to pick, but Nos. 16 through 20 are much more difficult..
D. Clay Best contributed to this story.