high school football preview

No. 2: Leesville Road prepares to defend Cap 8 title

Pride return with some new names, same style of play

cgrant@newsobserver.comAugust 10, 2012 

  • More information N&O preseason football rankings (2011 record) 1. Garner;15-1 2. Leesville Road; 12-1 3. Durham Hillside; 11-2 4. Wakefield; 9-3 5. Middle Creek; 10-4 6. Wake Forest-Rolesville; 13-3 7. Cleveland; 11-4 8. Southeast Raleigh; 9-3 9. Fuquay-Varina; 10-2 10. Cardinal Gibbons; 11-2 11. Chapel Hill; 10-3 12. Cary; 9-3 13. Erwin Triton; 10-2 14. West Johnston; 7-4 15. Clayton; 5-7 16. Panther Creek; 8-4 17. Broughton; 5-6 18. Bunn; 9-4 19. Southern Durham; 7-4 20. Knightdale; 4-6

— Leesville Road, last year’s Cap Eight 4A champion, is back with some new players, but the same system.

“We’re not going to change,” said head coach Chad Smothers. “We have new names playing, but we’re not going to change our identity. We’re going to play the style of football we played last year.”

Leesville Road reached the 2011 NCHSAA 4AA quarterfinals after going undefeated in the regular season.

While many opponents will be gunning to dethrone the Pride this year, Smothers said they’ve felt similar pressure for several years now.

“We had an extremely successful year last year, but we’ve had a very successful program over the last seven or eight years, so I don’t think there’s any more of a bullseye (this year) than there has been in the past,” Smother said.

Rather than feeling the heat, Smothers said this year’s team, which includes a number of new starters, is excited and ready to step up to the challenge.

The Pride graduated its entire offensive line from last year along with top running back D.J. Hunt, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards and scored 32 touchdowns in 2011.

They are also looking for someone to fill the role of quarterback Austin Berrios, who shared conference player of the year honors with Wakefield’s Connor Mitch. Berrios completed 47 of 77 passes for nearly 100 yards per game last year. He also returned kicks and was a running threat.

“You’re not going to replace him,” Smothers said. “Kids like that don’t come around very often.”

A week before the season opener, Smothers is still sorting through options behind center.

Three players, senior Evan Parker and juniors Braxton Berrios and Malcolm Hitchcock, are in the running for the starting QB spot.

Parker, who was the starting quarterback for Sanderson last year, transferred to Leesville Road for his senior season.

Braxton Berrios assumed the role of quarterback for the Pride in the playoffs last year after his older brother tore his ACL.

Hitchcock was the Pride’s backup quarterback for much of last season

“With any of the three guys playing, we’re a very different team,” Smothers said. “They all have different talents they bring to the table.”

Smothers said he isn’t in a rush to name a permanent starter and hasn’t ruled out rotating the quarterback spot and showing two or three different looks at the position in a game.

Each of the quarterback candidates can play other positions, so while Smothers isn’t set on a decision, he’s sure all three will start on offense.

Other key players for the Pride will be senior defensive lineman and wide receiver Derahjai Robinson, offensive lineman Drake Edwards, defensive end and linebacker Selo Kuvuna, defensive end Michael Williams and linebacker Tucker Bell.

“We still have a lot of question marks as a football team,” Smothers said. “We’re a work in progress. We’ll get better each and every day. It’s going to be a fun year.”

Grant: 919-829-4538

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service