Comfort zones are something high school football coaches typically want to get their teams out of early in the season. How a team reacts at home compared to how that same team reacts to a noisy, unusual road environment can be two very different things.
And the progression from competition in practice, to competition in scrimmages to competition in non-conference games — and how a team reacts to each of those new levels of challenges — can tell a coaching staff a lot about the make up of their team.
Three area teams — Southeast Raleigh, Garner and Cleveland — all had a version experience in the second week of the high school season.
Southeast took its second straight long road trip — this time to Myrtle Beach, S.C. — to play a highly-respected team. The Bulldogs have lost a pair of high-scoring affairs against both South Florence (S.C.) and Greenville Conley, but coach Michael Thibodeau said the dividends his team will reap later this season will be much more valuable.
“Our biggest thing we’re thinking about right now is preparing them for the playoffs,” Thibodeau said. “We know we can get into the playoffs with six or seven wins and we know we’ll be on the road with that kind of record. But with the environments these kids are going to play in during our non-conference schedule, they will be more prepared for a tough road atmosphere than anybody else we play.”
TV coverage doesn’t change much for Garner or Cleveland
Garner and Cleveland played in a Thursday night game that was broadcast on live TV. So in addition to losing a day of game preparation the Trojans and Rams had to get used to more cameras before the contest. Once the game started, things quickly got back to normal.
“Before the game I was a little more anxious then the usual game because of it,” said senior Cleveland offensive lineman Zach Jacobs, a three-year starter. “But when the game started I was so focused on doing my job that the game was on live TV did not cross my mind.
“Before the game, and really all day with all the cameras around, it just made the game feel more special and definitely one to remember. Unfortunately, we could not pull out the win.”
The two opposing coaches had similar thoughts on the role TV’s presence played in the game.
“They were thinking about a lot more than the cameras once it kicked off,” said Cleeland coach Scott Riley said of his team against Garner.
Garner coach Thurman Leach said he noticed that a couple of the time outs seemed longer than normal, but otherwise it was all business as usual once the game kicked off.
And like Thibodeau, Riley thought who the Rams were playing made a much bigger difference than any television presence.
“More so than the different situations, playing quality opponents like Garner has a huge benefit early in the season,” he said. “I think the combo of playing Garner and all the attention the game got, plus the huge crowd gave us a taste of what playoff football is like.”
Making dual quarterbacks work
South Johnston and Garner are both off to impressive 2-0 starts while splitting time between two quarterbacks. Garner is are playing senior Brodie West, who has played in more than 30 games already in his varisty career between Washington and Garner, and junior Braxton Brokenborough.
Leach and the rest of the coaching staff made the decision to have West start and Brokenborough play every third series against Cleveland.
“We think both guys give us different skill sets, but who can both be productive in both parts of the offense (running and throwing the ball),” Leach said.
Brokenborough went the distance in Week 1 against Cary with West recovering from a minor injury.
South Johnston split time between returning starter Deparis Patterson and Landen Lockamay (both juniors) successfully in the 17-13 win over West Johnston.
“We plan to go into games with both guys playing in the first half, then read it from there on who has the hot hand in the second half,” said South coach Hunter Jenks. “It was a little easier tonight to make that call because DeParis started cramping up in the second half and we had to stick with Landen.
“It’s something we think gives us a bit of an edge when teams start to game play against us. It’s something else teams have to prepare for when they play us.”
Bouncing back, riding momentum
North Johnston came into Week 2 rolling after a 40-plus-point win over Louisburg, but struggled to match Rosewood’s big scoring push last Friday night.
“I think they lost a bit of confidence in themselves,” said North second-year coach Ashley Ennis. “For a young football trying to grow, that can rattle you. We’ve got to re-gather and we can’t hang our heads. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Meanwhile, Buddy Williams couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in his first two games as coach at Corinth Holders.
The Pirates are 2-0 against a pair of teams that beat them last year, and scored 62 unanswered points against Northern Nash and Clayton before the Comets rallied for a big fourth quarter.
That is, of course, a testament to the Pirates’ defense as well as quarterback Kaelin O’Neal and running back Howard Watson who advanced the ball effortlessly against the Comets.
“Our kids continue to do everything we ask, and as long as they keep doing that we’ll be successful,” Williams said after Friday’s win. “Our offensive line did a really good job. But it’s continual development. We’ve got to come back Monday ready to go to work (for Wilson Hunt). It’s a week-to-week thing.”
Clayton, meanwhile, has twice been outscored six touchdowns to three. And Randy Pinkowski’s club will have to shore up the defensive side of the ball for another county battle against South Johnston this Friday.
“We can’t keep up giving 40-some points, and that’s on me. We didn’t do a good job on the optionand we need to look at the film and see who’s missing responsibilities,” Pinkowski said. “We need to be more disciplined. All we can do is analyze it and get back to work.
“Emotions are not going to win games for us. Good football is going to win.”
The Top Players of the Week 2
Desmond Quinerly, DL Garner: If you’ve every wondered why the defensive ends who play on Sundays are among the highest paid positions in the NFL, Quinerly showed you Thursday night against Cleveland. He did everything a defensive lineman could do to disrupt the opposition’s offense. His stat line, according to my book: five tackles for losses, 1 ½ sacks and two passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Howard Watson, RB Corinth Holders: Senior ran for 174 yards and a 69-yard TD in the first quarter to help lead the Pirates by Clayton for the first time in school history.
A.J. Edwards, RB North Johnston: Two weeks, two big games for the North Johnston fullback: 115 yards rushing on 13 carries and a TD against Rosewood.
Michael Held and Mike Potter contributed.
Week 3: The Area Games
Thursday: Nash Central at North Johnston, 7
Friday: Middle Creek at Garner, 7; Franklinton at Princeton, 7; Wake Christian at High Point Christian, 7; Southeast Raleigh at Wake Forest, 7; Clayton at South Johnston, 7:30; Cleveland at West Johnston, 7:30; Corinth Holders at Wilson Hunt, 7:30; Smithfield-Selma at Clinton, 7:30