The fusion of the two largest schools in Durham with some of the westernmost high schools in Wake County means we’re in for some real parity in the new Triangle 6 Conference. No team was better than 6-6 a year ago and only two teams – Green Hope and Panther Creek – made the playoffs.
That, coupled with the transfer of wideout Jordyn Adams by way of South Carolina, means Green Hope has gone from the underdog to the favorite in a year.
The six teams share a few common traits. Almost all have relatively new head coaches (Cary’s Mike Kirst is the second-longest-tenured as he enters his third year) and most of the teams were young a year ago.
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Athens Drive still doesn’t have a large number of seniors, but the Jaguars proved last year they can put up some points when they have to. Quarterback R.J. Ruffin, and running backs Isaiah Henderson and O.J. Flowers can move the chains and offensive lineman Syncere Bagley helps pave the way. The Jaguars are a dark horse candidate to finish in the top two.
Last year: 4-7 (4-4 Southwest Wake 4A)
Offense: Multiple Spread. Defense: Multiple Even Front.
Coaches: Jeremy Fullbright (HC), Frank Bon (WRs), Robert Clemons (DBs), Gerrard Everett (WRs), Ben Goudeau (OC), Aaron Lesane (DL), Chris Martin (DL), Will Nassif (QBs), Jonathan Pugh (Head JV/OL), Jimmy Ray (LBs), John Van Dyke (LBs), Tom Wetherby (LBs).
Contributors: R.J. Ruffin (Sr. QB), Isaiah Henderson (Jr. RB), O.J. Flowers (Jr. RB), Syncere Bagley (Sr. OL), Josh Jones (Jr. WR), Keane Sharpe (Jr. OL), Eli Henderson (Sr. LB), Geo-vany Cannon (Jr. DB), Xzavion Carter (Sr. DB), Terrance Lowe (Sr. DL), Cody Grenier (Jr. DL)
Cary brings back a majority of starters, including quarterback Caleb Groegler and playmaker Keeyon Hicks, who started last season as the quarterback before changing positions. The question for the Imps will be on defense, where last year’s team let eight opponents top the 40-point mark.
Last year: 1-10 (1-7 Southwest Wake 4A)
Offense: Spread. Defense: 4-2-5
Coaches: Mike Kirst (HC/OL), Jason Wilkes (OC/QBs), John Smith (DC/DBs), Ken Kinsey (WRs), Robby White (WRs), Frankie Williams (RBs), Garron Warwick (LBs), Roman Nelson (DBs), Marc Rogers (DL), Jon Trump (DL).
Contributors: Caleb Groegler (QB), Keeyon Hicks (RB/DB), Zac Wagner (DB/RB), Kam Gillespie (WR/DB), Shaheed Maynor (WR), Justin Rodgers (DB), Davin Vann (LB), Jacob Lipschitz (LB).
There’s excitement around Prestonwood about what this year’s Falcons football team could accomplish. The offense gets a year older in talented quarterback Willie Taylor and Old Dominion recruit Blake Watson. It doesn’t hurt to have UNC recruit Jordyn Adams, who is ranked one of the top wide receivers in the nation. Combine that with a new head coach, David Green is in his first year after leaving Enloe, that’s known for offense and the Falcons could take a big step forward if the defense plays well and the offensive line gels.
Last year: 6-6 (5-3 Southwest Wake 4A)
Offense: Spread option. Defense: Multiple, base 3 stack.
Coaches: David Green (HC), Joe Kilby (Asst HC, Off Line), Brian McDougall (DFO, RB), Steve Bauld (DC), Bob Wolfe (QB), Adam Thomas (DL), Greg Thomas (DB), Tim Inglis (LB), Jason Furrie (LB),Mike Lindley (WR), Steve Lloyd (JV HC), John Lane (JV DC), Brandon Turner (DB), Gordon Martin (RB), John Schmittle (OL), Mason Nagel (DL), Dave Zimmer (WR),
Contributors: Jordyn Adams (WR), Blake Watson (WR), Willie Taylor (QB), Dylon Washington (RB/CB), Andrew Becvar (DE), Paul Robinson (LB), Bo Ressler (OT), Dallin Kemp (OG), Sohum Singh (WR), Cade Rahm (WR), Monte Williams (LB), Max McIntyre (LB).
Noted program-builder Anthony Barbour enters his second year at the helm of the Falcons (yes, there are two Falcons in the Tri-6) with a horde of returning lettermen from a year ago. Jordan may have gone 1-10, but several opposing coaches noted how the team had progressed in a short period of time. Only three of those 10 losses were true blowouts.
Last year: 1-10 (1-5 PAC-6 4A)
Head coach: Anthony Barbour.
Panther Creek will be relying on some sophomores in key spots this year, but coach Sean Crocker – the longest-tenured of Tri-6 coaches at their current schools – will have his players tested with a tough nonconference schedule. Caleb Sellers and Myles Watson are among the Catamounts’ most experienced players, and kicker Sebastian Forgrave gives Panther Creek an always-welcomed edge on its opponents in the kicking game.
Last year: 5-7 (4-4 Southwest Wake 4A)
Offense: Spread. Defense: Multiple
Coaches: Sean Crocker (HC/OC), Anthony Sullivan (DC/ILBs), Isaac Bristol (OL/Head JV), Justin Isberg (DL), Harris Hite (OL), Darius Wilkins (OLBs), Lance Brown, Phil Lauria, Brian Cox, Shabre Judkins (DBs).
Contributors: Caleb Sellers (Sr. LB/HB), Kaleb Hall (Jr. WR/DB), Nick Moore (Soph. RB), Alexander Ahlquist (Jr. QB), Jordan Payne (Soph. QB/WR), Will Shumate (Sr. OL/DL), Myles Watson (Sr. WR/DB), Sebastian Forgrave (Jr. K/P).
New coach Cory Lea knows the Pirates well after being a coordinator here just two years earlier. Lea had a good two years as the head coach of Northern Vance, and he’ll be trying to solve a riddle that’s bugged Riverside for the last few years: how to get the offense to catch up with the defense. The Pirates have had one of the top defenses in the area in terms of points allowed per game in each of the last three seasons, but the wins haven’t been there as the offense has faltered. Things won’t take off right away with a new system, but the Pirates are hungry to make it back to the playoffs.
Last year: 4-7 (2-4 PAC-6 4A)
Offense: Spread. Defense: 4-2-5.
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 7 defense.
Coaches: Cory Lea (HC/OC), Jamie Barnette (QBs), Lee Wood (RBs), Michael Schatz (DC), Bryan Yarborough (DL), Levie Davis (DL), David Fretwell (LB) Greg Greene (OL), Tim Sunkins (OL), Jonathan Bell (WR/Head JV), Ryan Samuels (WRs), Bernard Gaines (DBs), Oran Hargroves (WRs).