Coming off if its best season since 2009, the Smithfield-Selma football team experienced a coaching change in the off-season that led to Wes Hill, a 1985 Spartan graduate, to come home and take the reigns at his alma mater.
The decision to call upon a member of the proud Spartan football family tradition to lead the way for the program comes during an exciting time for Smithfield-Selma, which is coming off its first multi-win season (3-8, 2-3 Two Rivers 3A Conference) in six years and seeing an influx of young, talented players.
“I never in a million years would have thought that I would be back in Smithfield-Selma coaching football,” Hill said. “Back in the day, we were real successful on the grass and we’re hoping to bring that tradition back and the biggest thing is to instill the pride back into our program and back into our school and our community.
“We’re all family again.”
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Senior Raequan Smith will be the leader of that family on the field heading a group of running backs capable of allowing Smithfield-Selma to rely on its preferred mode of transportation: the Wing-T.
Tre Bristow, Glendale Daniels, Tyquan Dublin, Reggie Scarborough and Michael Whitley all will play a role in the running game.
Seniors Isaac Jiminez and Alex Wagner will be asked to anchor an offensive line full of new faces and will be called upon to create lanes for the array of Spartan running backs.
Senior C.J. Turner (5-foot-8, 146 pounds) returns as the Spartan quarterback after an injury a year ago wiped out most of his junior season. His speed and ability to run the ball will add another layer of worry for opposing defenses to contend with when trying to identify the ball carrier each down.
Smithfield-Selma’s not-so-secret weapon will be kicker Christian Torres. Torres’ range exceeds 50 yards and will allow for more flexibility in the red zone for the Spartan offense.
Hill likes what he sees in his young team that sports just 11 seniors, but knows the importance of not trying to pound a round peg into a square hole, especially with talented underclassmen.
“Just like any team, we’ve got to morph into what the kids can do and find that happy medium — whether they can do this on offense or that on defense,” said Hill. “As a coach, I can’t run something offensively or defensively that the kids can’t do. We’ve got to find that happy medium and once we find that, then we can play.”
The defense figures to be much improved this year. Smithfield-Selma will utilize an odd-man front that will include Jiminez and Wagner in the box.
The back two levels of the defense will be the strength of the Spartans as Jamie Durham, Smith, Turner and Raeshon Watson will be key players in helping to slow down opposing offenses.
That defense will be tested from the outset of the season as Smithfield-Selma will take on a pair of 4A playoff teams from a year ago (Clayton and West Johnston) as well as state 2A runner-up Clinton within the first four weeks of the season.
Hill feels the troops are ready for the test and says he sees that pride and enthusiasm coming back into the program.
“It’s coming back,” said Hill. “I’ve been very impressed with what we’ve got. The young guys are really excited and I’m looking forward to seeing these guys grow over the next few years.”
Contributors: RB Tre Bristow; RB Glendale Daniels; RB Tyquan Dublin; DL/OL Isaac Jimenez; MLB Rea’Shawn McCray; WR/CB Tavion Rogers, RB Reggie Scarborough; RB/DB Raequan Smith; K Christian Torres, QB/DB C.J. Turner, DL/OL Alex Wagner; OLB Raeshon Watson; RB Michael Whitley.
Base Offense: Wing-T
Base Defense: 3-5
Expected team strength: Defense. Jamie Durham, C.J. Turner and Raeshon Watson figure to be the strongholds to lead a defense Hill is expecting great things from.
Question mark: The team’s ability to react to the ups and downs of a season defined by a difficult schedule that includes six playoff teams from a season ago.
Player they'll miss the most: The entire offensive line as the starting unit from a season ago will need to be replaced.
The main number: 34.5, the average number of points surrendered per game by the Spartan defense a year ago.
The quote: Hill: “We don’t have a non-conference schedule where we know we’re going to get 3-4 wins out of it and all we need to do is pick up one more and we can go to the playoffs. There’s no breathing room; the only week we can relax is Week 7, because that’s our bye week.”
Game to watch: Sept. 18 at home against North Johnston. The Spartans will take on a much-improved Panthers team as part of a difficult non-conference slate of games. In order for Smithfield-Selma to be around a .500 team near the midpoint of the campaign, its clash with North Johnston figures to be a key one.
Last five seasons
2014: 3-8, 2-3
2013: 1-10, 1-4
2012: 0-11, 0-7
2011: 0-11, 0-7
2010: 1-10, 0-7
Friday Night’s Area Season Openers
- Cleveland at Clayton, 7
- Cary at Garner, 7
- Southeast Raleigh at Greenville Conley, 7
- West Johnston at Smithfield-Selma, 7:30
- South Johnston at Franklinton, 7:30
- North Johnston at Louisburg, 7:30
- Wake Christian at Chatham Central, 7:30
- Northern Nash at Corinth Holders, 7:30
- Princeton has an open date this week