Even noted program-builder Don Simon was surprised at how much his Southern Lee football program improved over a year.
In 2014, Simon’s second year at the helm, the Cavaliers won a school-record eight games, beat crosstown rival Lee County to stop a five-game skid in the series and notched the program’s second playoff victory.
“It’s kind of what I do,” said Simon, who has coached for years in South Florida. “Come into programs and rebuild and kind of get it on their feet. I think we’re a year ahead (of schedule). We’ve been able to implement things a lot earlier. It’s a testament to our coaching staff and especially our administration.”
Simon’s program is built for success – he has a full staff of varsity-only coaches and a full JV-only staff, so that all players get individual attention and development.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Now it’s time to see just how good this year could be.
The Cavs return nine starters on offense and six on defense.
The entire offensive line returns, though Dan Long moves to tight end. That will only help the 19.3 points per game and the four running backs who are fighting for carries.
“Offensively we should be much improved,” Simon said.
The secondary is young but experienced, as evidenced by second-year starter Nate Thompson, a sophomore. The linebackers, led by Quinton Locklear, are extremely fast and should be the Cavs’ strongest defensive unit.
Simon, also the school’s athletics director, has brought continuity to a program that had four coaches in seven years before he took over. The foundation has been laid for payoff in future years, including this one.
“I think the kids really bought into what we were doing,” Simon said. “It’s nothing special other than just putting our nose down and working.”
Offense: No-huddle spread.
Contributors: QB Ishois Times; RB Jarvis Jackson; RB Jahmir Smith; WR Matt Johnson; WR Ryan Holmes; TE/LB Dan Long; LT Ben Long; LG Garrett Kollterman; C Dillon Barreras; RG Joe Kelly; RT Jayson Land; DL Ethan Lovick; DL Willis Snipes; LB Quinton Locklear; LB Maxx Taylor; DB Nate Thompson; DB Marcos Collazo; DB Marco Depaz; DB Zion Dennis.
Expected team strength: Offensive line.
Question mark: Defensive line.
Player they’ll miss the most: DE Garrett Wilson. Not only was he a good lineman, he was a good enough long-snapper to recently get on scholarship after walking on at Wake Forest.
The main number: 7 – Southern Lee held seven of its 12 opponents to single digits.
The quote: Simon: “When we got here, we had to figure out what our problems were. After year one, we addressed those issues and made steps forward.”
Game to watch: Oct. 9 – at Gray’s Creek. The Bears were one of the three teams tied for second in last year’s Cape Fear Valley Conference.
Last five years
2014: 8-5 (4-2), 3A second round
2013: 3-8 (2-4)
2012: 2-9 (1-5)
2011: 6-6 (3-3), 3A first round
2010: 2-9 (2-4)