Cleveland High opened in 2010 and sits just a few roads down from West Johnston in one direction and a few miles from Clayton’s city limits in the other.
For the first time, the Rams get to strike up late-season contests against the Wildcats and Comets as part of a Johnston County-centric Greater Neuse River 3A Conference. The league brings together three teams from last year’s 4A version of the conference – Clayton, East Wake and West Johnston – and three from the Two Rivers 3A – Cleveland, Smithfield-Selma and South Johnston.
Smithfield-Selma hasn’t had old rival Clayton to call its conference foe in four years. It’s been longer than that from when South Johnston used to call West Johnston and Clayton a conference rival, all the way back in 2004.
That has coaches of all six teams excited about the atmospheres surrounding those mid-to-late fall Friday nights.
The Comets started last year 6-1 before ending on a five-game losing streak. If last year’s group was senior-laden, that would’ve been a tough pill to swallow. Instead, Clayton has a boat load of upperclassmen who aren’t willing to let that happen again.
Last year: 6-6 (3-4 Greater Neuse 4A)
Offense: Multiple. Defense: 40 Front.
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 8 defense.
Coaches: Hunter Jenks (HC), Jason Warren (LBs) , Cullen Homolka (OC), Brian Roach (DC), Brandon Lusk (RBs), Brent Bailey (WRs), Phil Harris (WRs), Ricky Bucklin (OL), Darren Banks (DBs), Leamond Johnson (DBs), Dennis Burton (DL), Paul Yates (QBs).
Contributors: Devin Carter (WR), Savion Jackson (DL), Romeo Stancil (DB), Macaleb Robertson (WR), Isaac Duffy (DB), Noah Williams (LB), Joey Greco (DL), Mason Deal (OL), Josh Latta (OL), Bryce Graves (LB), Walter Karstens (OL).
Cleveland is still as fast as ever, and most coaches think the league title will come down to the Rams and Clayton. Darius Ocean is a new starter at quarterback, a position that Cleveland has never struggled to find playmakers. The Rams won at least a share of four straight conference titles in the old Two Rivers Conference.
Last year: 9-4 (5-0 Two Rivers 3A)
Offense: Spread. Defense: 3-4.
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 7 defense.
Coaches: Scott Riley (HC), Joseph Capps (OC/QBs), Brad Wilkie (OL), John Jacobs (WR), Tee Hughes (RB), Andrae Jacobs (DC/ LBs), Wayne Stewart (DB), Jordan Boser (DL/Head JV).
Contributors: Jaylan Vinson (Jr. WR), Jamal Hampton (Sr. CB), JaNathan Coward (Sr. DT), Jonathan Kisner (Sr. OLB), Cameron Witmer (Sr. C), Colby Witmer (Sr. LT/DT), Jon Barnes (Jr. WR/S), Darius Ocean (Soph. QB), Kaleb Scott (Jr. WR), Joi Williams (Jr. WR/S), Jacquez Durham (So. WR/S), Griffin Duck (Sr. WR).
After watching film on last season, new coach Sean Murphy knows this year’s Warriors need to reduce the number of turnovers and penalties to be competitive. East Wake is strong in the secondary, but could be a year away from making a dent in the GNRC standings.
Last year: 2-9 (0-7 Greater Neuse 4A)
Offense: Multiple. Defense: Even front.
Returning Starters: 3 offense, 6 defense.
Coaches: Sean Murphy (HC), Mike Murray (DC), Jesse Campbell (DBs), Jackson Glasgow (OL), Kevin Crudup (RBs), Jacob Woods (LBs), Lee Matthews (DL), Dan Carter (QBs).
Contributors: James Simon (Sr. DE), Dorez Wynn (Jr. TE), Anthony Deloatch (Sr. CB), JaQwaun Taybron (Jr. CB), Malik Hankins (Sr. LB), Kenshawn Hunter (Sr. FB), Jazon Scarboro (Jr. RB), Jon Staten (Jr. LB), Cameron Moore (Sr. DB), Bishop Hill (Sr. DB).
New head coach Michael Parrish had some success with the Spartans’ JV program, and the hope is that it will carry over to the varsity enough to pull SSS out of its 24-game losing streak that it entered this year with. There are more Spartans who tried out this season, and in previous years depth has been a problem.
Last year: 0-11 (0-5 Two Rivers 3A)
Head coach: Michael Parrish.
The Trojans have a mix of experience and inexperience. Running back Jaequan Wells had seven touchdowns in four games as a freshman, and Jeffery Hannah transfers in from Triton after being conference player of the year.
Last year: 6-7 (3-2 Two Rivers 3A)
Offense: Pistol Triple Option and Power. Defense: 4-3.
Returning Starters: 4 offense, 7 defense.
Coaches: Matt Riggsbee (HC/OC), Dominique Manson (head JV, WRs), Lee Webb (DC/LBs), Ashley Ennis (OL), Dean Wade (RBs), Will Faircloth (DL), Derick Micke (DBs), Jimmy Abdalla Sr. (DL), Jim Abdalla Jr. (OL), Logan Langston (TEs)
Contributors: Arik Harvey (DT/FB), Hezikiah Bailey (S/RB), Jaequan Wells (RB), Zack Grady (QB), Jawuan Smith (WR), Jaquain Smith (WR), Charles Nicholes (OL), Roberto Diaz (OL/DE), Jeffery Hannah (LB/RB), Jayvis Jefferson (CB), Harold Robinson (CB), Cody Lockamy (LB), Trevor Murphy (DT)
West Johnston lost nearly 30 seniors from the best team in school history, so the slate is all but wiped clean for new coach Rob Senseney. Senseney, who won a conference title at Knightdale and more recently has been an assistant at South Johnston, likes what he’s seen so far.
Last year: 10-2 (6-1 Greater Neuse 4A)
Head coach: Rob Senseney.