Clevelands football program has shined brightest when it matters most on Friday nights over the past two seasons, setting a standard for winning that established programs would love to have, much less a program embarking on just its third varsity season.
The Rams (23-6 over the past two seasons) return six starters so coach Marc Morris knows Friday night production will have to come from a younger group. Cleveland has just 11 seniors on its squad this season but nearly four dozen juniors.
We have a good bunch of young players, a bunch of guys who got a lot of playing time in spots last season, Morris said. Well just have to see how it goes once the games start.
Talented runner Isaac Martin is back at starting tailback and Morris expects another great effort this season. Hell be joined by returning quarterback Aaron Farmer, who played capably last season after becoming the starter in midseason.
We expect a lot out of him, Morris said of Farmer.
Also expected to contribute to the ground attack is Corey Brown, who could play receiver as well. Taiquan Dixon, Greg Tyler and Patrick Jesequel are all in the receiver rotation as well.
Senior Alex Raines, one of Clevelands most experienced receivers, was thought lost for the season with a knee injury this summer but Morris said its possible he could return later in the season.
Returning starters Xavier Baker and Bryce Hale anchor the offensive line, which will also use Adam Kurtz, Zack Jacobs, Paul Johnson and Ryder Medlin.
Defensively, the line is a potential strength with returning starter Dylan Caldwell joined by Sterling Johnson, Bryer Rogers, Chris Lee and Lane Kirby.
I think the defensive line will be ready, Morris said.
Linebacker Cardell Rawlings is the only other returning defensive starter. Hell work with a group that includes Andrew Caldwell, Daquan Goodwin, Jake Allen and Kayvion Dunn.
The secondary is the big question mark for Morris on the defensive side. Junior Malik Vick and senior Delaney Ahola are likely starters but the rest of the unit is up in the air.
Were like anybody, weve just got to play, Morris said. This team just needs good game experience. Weve got a bunch of big ones early. Hopefully, well be up.
The Rams, who enter the new Two Rivers 3A Conference this season, have one of the oddest schedules in the state with only four home games but three of those games (Garner, Corinth Holders and South Johnston) should draw huge crowds.
The Rams visit Clayton for the first meeting between the two schools in the opening week, then host Garner and visit West Johnston a week later.
The Rams could play in three of the largest regular-season crowds in the Triangle in each of the first three weeks of the season.
Then again, Cleveland, which has made it to the third round of the playoffs in each its first two seasons, is used to the big stage.
Morris thinks this group will get to that point as well.
Its a good group of hard-working kids, Morris said. Theyll play good football, when they get experience.
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