In his 1910 speech “Citizenship in a Republic, President Theodore Roosevelt spoke of determination and commitment, saying, “It is not the critic who counts. ... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…”
Of course, had he been talking about the Chapel Hill Park and Recreation youth football season thus far, he certainly would have included mud – yes, “dust and sweat and blood and mud.”
Lots of mud.
While early season rains have wrecked havoc on practices and game schedules, Chapel Hill’s four age-group teams are standing tall and gearing up for Quad County Recreational Football League play-off berths.
The QCRFL teams are all supported by recreational agencies, comprising an informal association of programs from Randolph, Chatham, Orange and Wake counties.
Standing at 2-1 going into last weekend, Chapel Hill’s Titan flag football squad for 5-6-year-olds has had success beating teams to the corners.
“We run a lot of sweeps, and we’ve added a reverse,” coach Jon Cheek said.
With a skeleton roster of just 13 young athletes (just one over the minimum number of 12 on a flag roster), the Titans may be short on numbers, but they’re long on talent, Cheek said.
“Our quarterback is Jasiah Allen,” Cheek said. “He does a lot of the running and sort of controls the offense.”
“My center is Jacoby Jacobs, and he’s pretty consistent snapping the ball,” Cheek added. “Jason Forrest does a great job at practice getting everyone through the drills, and he plays in the backfield and at tight end, too.”
Cheek even has the pleasure of coaching his daughter, who’s “hanging in there” with the boys on the youngest Titan squad.
“It’s Rosalia Cheek’s first year, and she’s doing pretty well,” Coach Cheek said.
Next up for the Titans will be a home game versus Randleman this Saturday.
Chapel Hill’s other Titans – the 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 squads – will host Holly Springs on Saturday.
With assistant coach Earl Sharpe helping out on the sideline and talents like Marcus Sharpe and Johnniyus Sharpe in skill positions, head coach John Scotton is hoping to hone the play-off chances for the 7-8 Titans, the youngest players taking part in QCRFL tackle football. They stood 2-0 going into last weekend’s games.
“We primarily run a wishbone set,” Scotton said. “Coach (Earl) Sharpe works with the offense, and he’s been putting in a lot of different sets. Earl’s so good with the kids, but the kids have been taking to that really well.”
Scotton said Marcus Sharpe has been sharing quarterback duties behind the center with John Wirt.
“Coach Earl’s son Johnniyus Sharpe plays fullback,” he added. “Joshua Roberson’s also a big running back for us. We don’t really have set positions though. We have some kids that play running back and some that play line, and we rotate them at different positions.”
Scotton had high praise for linemen Nathan Hughes, Shea Spiller and Jathan Montero in the trenches,
“Sajei Bland also plays on both sides of the ball, and he’s pretty destructive in there,” Scotton added.
Turning the corner
Even with a pair of losses to start the season and a young roster, head 9-10 Titan Coach Elvin Munn has high hopes for a string of victories and an invitation into postseason play.
“This year, I’ve got about 15 rookies and 8 veterans,” Munn said, adding that his Titans still boasted the biggest line in the league.”
Munn said Jevontay Paisant and Tarran Kyes were helping to hold down the line, opening holes on offense and plugging them on defense. On offense, Munn said the Titans’ attack was a good run-pass balance.
“Isaiah Roberson is a veteran, and we have Jace Alston,” he said. “Josh Kelley is quarterbacking for us, and Jakori Leak is our running back in a group with Ben Parry. We have two sets of running backs.”
Munn was also proud of his defense’s efforts early in the season.
“We have a great defense. We only gave up 19 points in two games,” he said. “The offense just hasn’t been able to punch it in.
“Hopefully, we can (start putting) something up on the scoreboard and I feel strongly that, if we win the (remaining) games, we can be in the playoffs.
Go east, young man
After years coaching the 11-12 squad for Carrboro Recreation and Parks, the temporary loss of practice space to construction at Anderson Park forced a move of the 11-12 squad to Chapel Hill, but a move eastward was fine by Coach Lester Fortney
Fortney said Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation athletics specialist Mike Troutman had asked him help out in Chapel Hill this year. Luckily, Fortney and the 11-12 team also brought their winning ways with them, standing at 2-1 going into this past Saturday.
“Overall, I’m really proud of the team; we’re doing well,” Fortney said. “Caleb Kelley is our quarterback again this year, and he just continues to improve. He’s just got a great arm this year. I’m impressed with Caleb and his leadership ability.”
Fortney said running backs Elijah Ayankoya and Logan Pritchard were doing much of the ball-carrying.
“Those guys are just making a huge impact,” Fortney said. “Logan is a power runner who does a great job of making the defense pay for every tackle they make. Elijah is fast and quick, and when he gets an edge, nobody can catch him.”
On the line, Fortney commended the tough play of Cooper Jackson, Stephen Lane and Andre Davis.”