Triton is in a familiar place even as it enters a new conference this season.
The Hawks are coming off of back-to-back 10-win seasons and return nine starters, but – as usual – much of the preseason chatter about the Two Rivers 3A Conference centers on another team: Cleveland.
The way things are going, this isn’t a bad trend for Triton or even an unexpected one.
“It gets a little chip on their shoulders,” said second-year head coach Ashley Ennis. “But I think they’re jaded to it now. … We have expectations for ourselves.”
Those expectations – as usual – are to find the right mix of backfield talent to make the wing-T produce big yardage and points totals.
But Triton will have to do it without proven talent at the offensive speed positions after the graduation of Dedrick Stacker and Brandon McLean. Fullbacks Todd Penny and Devonte Stewart are veterans, but Johnny Hodges is the only returning starter on the line.
“We don’t need the guys on our offensive line to be big, gigantic kids,” Ennis said. “We need guys who are quick off the ball, can block down, make that kick-out block. We lost four very good linemen from last year so that’s an area of concern.”
Tight end Austin Lee and receiver Chris Eason are back in the starting lineup as well.
The Hawks return 26 lettermen and feature a senior class with the chance to do something no Triton class has ever done: win four straight conference championships. That would be quite the accomplishment for a school withouta conference championship before 2010.
The Hawks’ defensive strength will be on the edge with outside linebackers Tyler Tyndall (6-foot, 190 pounds) and Brad Miller returning, as well as talented defensive end Tim McNeill (6-0, 260). Lee also starts at safety.
Defensively, the Hawks hope their tendency to win the takeaway battle carries over from last season.
Triton has changed up its non-conference schedule, adding games with Hope Mills Gray’s Creek, Rocky Mount, Fayetteville Cape Fear and Southern Lee to its traditional in-county battles with Harnett Central and Spring Lake Overhills.
“I certainly feel like we’ll be battle-tested by the time of the South Johnston game (Oct. 11),” Ennis said. “I think we’ve managed to put together a quality football team. We’re going to try to get good enough to compete for another conference championship and get better each week. We will compete.”
Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest