It’s a familiar refrain for Southern Vance football coach Lewis Young. Entering his fifth year as head coach of the Raiders, Young is struggling to find the linemen needed to free up his skill-position standouts.
Standout senior Chris Dominguez is the only offensive lineman who played last year, much less started. Even with some of the fastest players in the Northern Carolina 2A Conference, it’s been hard for the Raiders to overcome that.
“That’s been our weakest point,” Young said of the offensive line, “but it needs to be our strongest point. It’s been that way for the last three years.”
Who are some players to know on offense?
The name college recruiters know the best is tight end Zamari Ellis, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound tight end recruit who changes the game with his receiving and blocking.
“I know everyone’s going to double-team him every game,” Young said. “A lot of times we’ll run right behind him. ... He creates some nice little lanes for us.”
Agile quarterback Corey Twitty Jr. takes over after playing some early last year and averaging 20.3 yards per completion. Tyrese Henderson slides into the starting running back role.
What about defense?
Four starters are back and two are all-conference candidates.
Malik Boyd is a shutdown corner who also plays wide receiver. Marlin Hicks had 124 tackles last season at the linebacker spot. Ellis also sees time on the defensive line.
What’s a reasonable goal?
Only four seniors are in the program, so Young knows whatever happens this year, the bigger goals are still a year away.
“We’re fighting to at least get a win in the conference and a .500 season,” Young said. “Most of the guys are juniors and 10th-graders, so they’re still developing. ... Hopefully by next year they’ll be ready to be at the top of the conference.”
More on the Raiders
Last year: 2-9 (0-5 Northern Carolina 2A)
Five year average: 5-7 (2-3)
Preseason N&O rank: Unranked
Offense: Multiple spread
Coaches: Lewis Young (HC/DC), Juan Jefferson (OC/WRs), Weston Pearson (RBs), Reggie Moore (OL), Alphonso Collins (DL), Professor Campbell (DBs), Patrick Ellis (assistant), Lawrence Yates (assistant), Joseph Young (assistant)
Contributors: Corey Twitty Jr. (Sr., QB), Tyrese Henderson (Jr., RB), Shamond Lyons (Jr., WR), Malik Boyd (Jr., WR/DB), Zamari Ellis (Jr., TE), Chris Dominguez (Sr., OL), Marlin Hicks (Sr., LB), Davonta Bumpers (Sr., LB), Jahleel Wilkerson (Jr., LB)
The main number: 23.8 – Zamari Ellis caught 21 passes for five touchdowns, meaning he found the end zone for 23.8 percent of his passes.
Aug. 19 vs. Ravenscroft, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 at J.F. Webb 7 p.m.
Sep. 1# at Northern Vance, 7 p.m.
Sep. 9 vs. Hertford County, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 16 BYE
Sep. 23 at Louisburg, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 30 Bartlett Yancey, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7* vs. Bunn, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14* at South Granville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21* at Warren County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28* at Roanoke Rapids, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4* vs. Franklinton, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game; #Thursday game.