When Anthony Timmons lectures his new players about trusting their teammates and coaches, he understands that he might as well be looking at himself in the mirror.
That’s because Timmons is Knightdale’s third football coach over the past four years. The Knights are seeking some stability for their program – just three years removed from a 2013 campaign that saw Knightdale take the Greater Neuse River Conference championship before reaching the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
Since that groundbreaking moment, the Knights have gone through a trio of coaches, the latest of which is Timmons after a combined eight-year head coaching stretch at Graham (his latest stop) and East Montgomery.
When Timmons accepted the position at Knightdale, he understood that a long-term commitment was anticipated – and he was more than happy to embrace that promise.
“I’ve told the kids from day one that trust is something that is earned, and that includes myself,” Timmons said. “As coaches, we have to be prepared to work hard, and we expect the same from the players. We all have to do our jobs and be held accountable at all times.”
“Knightdale has some good history and lots of athletes. Three years ago, they made a big (playoff run). The talent is here, but what is needed now is continuity. I think that will make a big difference.’’
Everything is bigger these days for Timmons, a Davidson County native who is making his 4A debut following four seasons apiece on the Class 1A and 2A levels.
Timmons has a larger roster – both in numbers and girth – to go with large expecations in the always-tough GNRC. Even Timmons’ daily commute is much more sizable; he is still residing in the Triad as his wife is expecting the couple’s third child this fall.
“The biggest difference is numbers,” Timmons said. “The linemen are bigger and we have more depth. It’s my hope that we can one day get up to 110 players between varsity and junior varsity. But everybody still puts their pads on the same way. It is still football.’’
Timmon’s immediate task will be to push the program upward after the Knights have won just nine of 23 outings over the past two years.
Who are some players to watch?
D.J. Conner takes over at quarterback this fall after spending most of the 2015 season at the linebacker position. While Conner is short on experience, Timmons likes the fact that he will be breaking in a new signal-caller in his first year in charge of the Knights’ gridiron program.
“It just helps with the learning curve,” Timmons said. “When you haven’t played quarterback in the past, it means you haven’t learned another system. The quarterback can come right in and learn my system, which is geared toward the personnel we have.”
One of Conner’s chief targets is junior tight end Andrew Tuazama, who has been a varsity performer at Knightdale since he was a freshman. Tuazama is an easy target at 6-foot-7. Also a defensive end, Tuazama has attracted the interest of several Division I schools.
Timmons still hasn’t finalized his running back plans, with Devin Hill and Ken’dell Thomas both expected to receive their share of carries. Hill was injured for much of last year, while Thomas spent more time at cornerback than in the Knights’ backfield.
Knightdale’s defensive front will be young, but does have considerable experience in the secondary thanks to seniors Justin Campbell (cornerback) and Nyjil Thomas (safety).
What players will they miss the most?
Quarterback Andre Willis, who led the Knights in touchdowns, is now a member of the football team at St. Augustine’s University.
Corey Wiggins also made the All-GNRC team while making 71 tackles at defensive end and tackle.
Josh Schenk and Jalen Williams were also defensive cornerstones for Knightdale last season.
Can Knightdale make a move in the GNRC?
The Knights started 4-1 in 2015, but ended the regular season with setbacks against conference foes Garner, East Wake and West Johnston. Knightdale’s final two losses were by a combined six points before a playoff defeat at New Hanover ended the Knights’ slate at 6-6 overall and 3-4 in the league.
“One thing we have stressed is the importance of doing the small things right,” Timmons said. “You need that attention to detail in order to be successful. If you take care of the small things, the big things will come.”
“I’m a little different from most coaches in the sense that I will be most happy when these kids are doing well 5-10 years from now. The wins and losses come and go, but life’s lessons stay with you forever.”
With competition expected to be even more intense in the league this time around, Timmons knows his club will have to be ready for what will once again be a rigorous closing stretch.
More on the Knights
Last year: 6-6 (3-4 Greater Neuse River 4A), 4A first round
Five year average: 6-5 (4-3)
Offense: Pro Spread
Coaches: Anthony Timmons (head coach), Kevin Park (Def. coordinator), Torrance Carle (LBs), Leon Parker (DL), Darrin Stinson (RBs), Greg Hill (WRs), Ed Zygliss (OL), James Rouse (Safeties), Stephen Larkins (CBs)
Contributors: D.J. Conner (Sr., QB), Devin Hill (Sr., RB), Ken’dell Thomas (Jr., RB), Andrew Tuazama (Jr., TE), Kyle Chapman (Sr., C), Josh Campbell (Sr., CB), Nyjil Thomas (Sr., FS)
The main number: 4 – Just when it looked like Knightdale was building some momentum after an off year in 2014, the team dropped its final four games last fall.
Aug. 19 vs. Sanderson, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Millbrook, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 at Heritage, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8# vs. Enloe, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16* at Harnett Central, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23* vs. Rolesville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30* at Clayton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7* vs. Southeast Raleigh, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 BYE
Oct. 21* at Garner, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* at East Wake, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* vs. West Johnston, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game; #Thursday game