Back in the states 3A classification for the first time in a decade, Southerns Spartans are thinking about moving up, not down.
This group has the goal to be state champions, Jones said as Southern Durham's players prepared to take on Wakefield in a full-game scrimmage at 4:15 p.m. Saturday at Southeast Raleigh. We talk about it every day every day.
Jones believes Southern has the talent to bring a state championship back to Durham. When Southern was a member of the PAC-6, the Spartans were the last team to beat Hillside in a conference game before the Hornets went on a 16-0 run to win the 2010 4A state title.
Southern will face a test of expectations in its season-opener on Aug. 30, when it hosts Hillside in what is now a non-conference grudge match. Regardless of what comes, Jones currently thinks the Spartans can bring some 4A swagger into the 3A Big Eight Conference.
We have what we need to win it all, Jones said. Weve put that burden of winning on ourselves. Now we have to see if we can do all the work thats needed to do it.
Southern has 17 starters back from last years 7-5 team (5-1 in PAC-6).
Seven of those veterans were all-conference performers in 2012: quarterback Kendall Hinton, a rising junior; wide receiver Maurice Trowell; defensive end Tahj Spivey; defensive back Marvin Tillman; lineman Noah Chase, strong safety Kameron Johnson; and running back William Cameron.
But defense could be the Spartans strong point. At an eight-team jamboree last weekend at Southern Vance, where the heat index topped 100, Southern Durham shut out all five teams it faced.
I was very, very impressed, Jones said. That was something any coach would like to see.
Hinton was one of the Triangles top passers last year, completing 148 of 258 throws (57.4 percent) for 2,481 yards and 27 touchdowns. His primary target was Trowell, who had 941 receiving yards with seven touchdowns. Trowell already has been named to at least one preseason all-state team.
While it garnered him attention and early offers from ACC and Big 12 teams, Hintons success belied Southerns intentions to re-establish its running game with Cameron, a 5-10, 180-pound senior who has an offer from West Virginia. Jones intends to see Cameron get the ball more this season.
Southern has had just one 1,000-yard rusher in the seven years Jones has been head coach: 2011 grad Akeem Judd, who recently signed at Ole Miss after a standout year at Georgia Military College.
Hinton, Spivey and Tillman have helped their own recruiting prospects with GPAs above 3.8; Southern speed merchant Jeremy Griffis joins them as an honors student.
We have talent, Jones said. If we keep working hard as we have, I think you will see us bring a crown home.