If you’re more than a little jaundiced toward football lately – NFL football in particular – stop by a local youth recreation football game some Saturday morning.
This past Saturday, all four local park and recreation teams were in action at East Chapel Hill High School, from the 5-6-year old flag squads to the 11-12-year old Carrboro squad.
Here, basking in the first breath of autumn air, the purity of sport on this canvas will restore your faith in football. Here, for these young players, a “domestic incident” is throwing food at the dinner table. Here, chocolate milk is a performance enhancing substance.
And here, sports are life-sized: football is what football should be. These local teams are doing it right, and putting together winning records while they’re at it.
Undefeated after two contests, the Chapel Hill Titans 5-6 flag squad (2-0) is keeping things simple.
“We run around the ends—‘L’ and ‘R,’” said Jay Hughes, who coaches the team with Howard Forrest. “We also have an ‘M’ (play) that we run up the middle, where we line them in the I formation and the fullback follows the halfback through the center.”
Hughes said the key to winning non-contact flag football contests wasn’t strength but speed.
“There’s not a whole lot of blocking going on, so we’ve just got to outrun the (defense),” he said. “We’re also trying to implement a couple pass plays right now.”
Hughes said Jacari Burnette was behind the center at quarterback, targeting backs and receivers like Jasiah Allen, Devin Whitted, and Tyson Rone.
“Lineman Mason Hughes is our center,” Hughes added. “He’s a veteran; he was out here last year. Then we have Jaeger Forrest, and he’s playing guard and tackle. He was out here last year too.”
The Titans started off the year with a 32-19 victory over the Asheboro-2 Colts and, after an off-week, scored a 25-19 victory this past Saturday versus the Asheboro-1 Cardinals.
7-8 Titans looking Sharpe
After defeating Holly Springs 33-13 in their opening game, coach Earl Sharpe’s Chapel Hill 7-8 Titans tackle football squad (1-1) missed out on a second win, as a game Asheboro Bengals team handed a 20-6 loss to the home side on Saturday.
“We were missing a few key players today,” Sharpe said on Saturday, “and I think that hurt us.”
Sharpe said running back Jakori Leek was taking on the ball-carrying duties, while Joshua Kelley was playing quarterback. Johnniyus Sharpe and Kyon Brown were a pair of standouts on the Titans’ line, he added.
Sharpe said his squad plays smash-mouth football.
“We just run the regular I formation,” he said. “We just line up and play football.”
Almost isn’t good enough
Last year, the 9-10 Chapel Hill Titans (1-1) finished their season with a loss in the league championship game. This year, Coach Elvin Munn has set his team’s sights on returning to the championship finish and finishing their season with a win.
“Our goal is this year is to win the whole thing,” Munn said. “We went to the championship game last year and lost. I feel strongly that if we put in the work ... we can win it all.”
While a 26-0 victory over Holly Springs in their 2014 season opener put them back on that winning road with, a heartbreaking last-second 20-19 loss to Asheboro this past Saturday will now test their resolve.
The 9-10 Titans are used to adapting, however.
“We were supposed to have 12 kids coming back,” Munn said, “and we only ended up with six kids, but we’ve had some great players coming up from the 7-8 team. The entire team has really gelled together.”
Munn said speed was the key to their attack.
“We run a wing-T offense,” he said. “We’re basically running the ball from one side of the line to the other and all the way across [which we can do] with the caliber of running backs we have – and we have four of the fastest kids in the league. God has just blessed us this season.”
“We have one running back – Malik Alston – who scored five touchdowns in the first game,” Munn said, “but one got called back for holding.”
Munn said success started on the offensive line, and standouts included Aidan Nevilles, Steven Lane and Nate Lane. Aiding Alston with the ground game are Isaiah Robinson and Jace Alston. Travis Thomas is the Titans’ quarterback.
Carrboro playing big
Carrboro’s 11-12 squad (2-0) is winning by the numbers – bigger roster numbers than the age group has seen in years.
“It’s been a good year, and this is our biggest team yet,” Coach Lester Fortney said. “We’ve got 25 players on the roster. I think we’ve been a melting pot of a lot of programs, including Orange County and Chapel Hill.”
After beating Holly Springs 27-7 in its first game on September 6, Carrboro showed it hadn’t grown rusty over the course of an off-week, returning to action this past Saturday and posting a 32-12 victory over Asheboro.
The win versus Asheboro was important, Fortney said. “This (was) a huge week for us, because Asheboro also combined two teams, and they’ve got some good athletes.”
Fortney said his team runs a pro-style offense.
“We’ve got some really fast guys that we like getting the ball to,” Fortney said. “The offensive line is doing a great job, so we’re able to use a little more power on offense.”
“Caleb Kelley is our quarterback and he’s been running our offense,” Fortney added. “He’s just a great leader, and he’s great at getting everybody organized.”
Behind Kelley are a trio of tailbacks / wingbacks in Isaiah Holloman, Jasper Ludington and Jamil Elbahlawan.
“We’ve got Cooper Jackson; he’s a guard, and he’s helping to hold down the offensive line,” Fortney said.
Mostly, however, what big numbers give Carrboro is fresh energy.
“We’ve only got a couple guys going both ways,” Fortney said, “but mostly we have an offensive and a (separate) defensive team.”
Up and coming
With the majority of the season left to play for all teams, nobody’s out of the running for a play-off spot as yet, and both the 11-12 Carrboro squad and all three Chapel Hill Titan teams are hoping to move one step closer with wins this coming Saturday morning, as all local teams square off against East Chatham squads at Northwood High School.
For anyone waiting for games on Sunday to provide a cleaner image of the game, perhaps a few of these Saturday contests will be enough to restore your faith in football.