After winning the Greater Neuse 4A championship and finishing 11-2 in 2013, Knightdale graduated the bulk of its skill position players and lost coach Rob Senseney, who resigned to coach Lawndale Burns.
The loses are starting to show.
The Knights (2-4) have dropped their first two league games to West Johnston, 30-14, and Clayton, 32-28, but coach Cedric Dargan said he cannot fault the team’s effort.
“I’m most pleased with our kids’ effort every Friday,” Dargan said. “They’re leaving it all on the field for me, and that’s all I can ask.
“I’m also pleased with the way our guys are staying together during the rough patch in our season. There is not a lot of finger pointing and the kids are starting to take accountability for their own actions.”
Dargan said the early conference losses have not affected the team’s work.
“The simple fact that they have another game, another opportunity to compete, is enough to motivate our guys to stay together and to continue to work hard,” he said.
One highlight, Dargan said, has been the play of Jake Deshields, who has started at linebacker, tight end, offensive guard and long snapper.
“Whenever we need a spot filled, we turn to him and he hasn’t let us down yet,” Dargan said. “We have a stable of backs that are running the ball well: Malik Branch, Joshua Schenck, Devin Lessane, Khaliq Lewis and Taurez Williams.”
Back and forth: Wake Christian’s Luke Ryals scored on a 2-yard run on fourth down with 23.8 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 52-48 win against Harrells Academy last week. Ryals completed eight of 16 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns and led Wake Christian in tackles from his linebacker spot.
“I’ve told him all season that he is a linebacker who played quarterback,” Wake Christian coach Stephen Cochran said. “But he really matured as a quarterback last week.”
There were 10 lead changes in the game. Wake Christian drove 51 yards for the winning touchdown, starting the drive with 4 minutes, 6 seconds remaining..
“We wanted to eat as much time as we could on the last drive,” Cochran said. “We didn’t want to give Harrells much time.”
High praise for Grisel: Middle Creek’s Mike Castellano said he has never coached a better quarterback than Brant Grisel, and that includes Tyler Thigpen, who played at Coastal Carolina when Castellano was a coach and later was the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I can’t say it enough,” Castellano said. “I’ve coached Division I ball and was part of a staff that coached a QB that played six years in the league. Brant Grisel is the best QB I’ve ever seen.”
Grisel has completed 92 of 157 passes for 1,319 yards. He has 15 touchdown passes, and five of his passes have been intercepted.
Castellano also noted that Elijah Perry has accumulated 905 yards rushing in the equivalent of four games. Perry didn’t play past the start of the third quarter in two games and another game was stopped at halftime.
Run, throw, catch: Junior Ian Boyd, who usually is a wide receiver, was pressed into quarterback duties last week in Apex’s 45-35 victory against Fuquay-Varina.
Boyd completed his only pass for 18 yards, rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 38 yards.
Justin Cook shared quarterbacking duties and was 7-for-10 for 103 yards.
Rowe returns. Clayton’s Rodney Rowe broke his collarbone in the Comets’ first scrimmage, but he made a strong return Friday during a 32-28 victory over Knightdale. He rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
Versatility: Damontay Rhem is making big plays for East Wake on offense and defense. Rhem leads the Warriors in rushing (591 yards) and tackles and is second on the team in receiving (233 yards).