High School Sports

Previewing the other N&O-area football teams

Justin Bethea (8) of Lee County catches an interception for the Yellow Jackets. The Orange Panthers played the Lee County Yellow Jackets in Hillsborough, N.C. on Friday, November 14, 2014. Orange won 21-20.
Justin Bethea (8) of Lee County catches an interception for the Yellow Jackets. The Orange Panthers played the Lee County Yellow Jackets in Hillsborough, N.C. on Friday, November 14, 2014. Orange won 21-20. newsobserver.com

For some teams in the greater Triangle area, the goal for the upcoming season is about to make the playoffs. Others are more or less ambitious, depending on how last season went.

In spanning the football teams that don’t fit into large conferences with lots of other area squads – like Southern Lee and Lee County, which are members of the Fayetteville-based Cape Fear Valley Conference – there are a number with high hopes.

Sorting out the field

Favorite No. 1: Ravenscroft. With almost every starter back, the Ravens should repeat the NCISAA Big East title.

Favorite No. 2: Southern Lee. The Cavaliers have momentum to win a Cape Fear Valley 3A title.

Underdog No. 1: Grace Christian Raleigh. It’s the Eagles’ first year of varsity 8-man football in the NCISAA.

Underdog No. 2: Chatham Central. With just a handful of players in a tough league, it’s an uphill fight.

Dark horse No. 1: Louisburg. The Warriors won 9 games last year.

Dark horse No. 2: Union Pines. Once a downtrodden program, the Vikings went 6-6 and are improving in skill.

Seven players to watch for

Justin Bethea, Lee County: Senior had 7 interceptions and was the team’s top receiver in 2014.

Melvin Briggs, St. David’s: Senior running back had 1,745 yards rushing with 27 TDs.

Tyre Davis, Louisburg: In eight games, the sophomore had 835 yards rushing (12.8 per carry) and 13 touchdowns.

Quinton Locklear, Southern Lee: Linebacker is getting college interest.

Jay Parker, Granville Central: Senior quarterback has more than 7,000 yards passing and 72 career TDs.

D.J. Washington, Ravenscroft: Son of Heritage coach Dewayne poised for a big season at linebacker.

Adrian Whack, Princeton: Versatile senior will focus on new role – defensive end.

Mark your calendars

Oct. 9, Word of God at Athens Drive: A school of less than 100 goes to a school of 2,000.

Oct. 9, Ravenscroft at Wake Christian: The Ravens are reloaded and the Bulldogs have improved.

Oct. 23, Granville Central at Louisburg: Winner here stays in the conference race.

Nov. 6, Southern Lee at Lee County: Could the Brick City Bowl also have a conference championship trophy on the line?

One statement, one question

Carrboro (3-8, 1-4 Mid-State 2A): The Jaguars bring back the entire offensive and defensive line. And that’s where games are won, right?

Cary Christian (3-7, NCISAA 8-man): The Knights were young last year. Is this the bounce-back year?

Chatham Central (1-10, 1-7 Yadkin Valley 1A): Last year’s lone win came after Albemarle forfeited an 83-0 win. Is the Sept. 4 game with Kestrel Heights winnable this year?

Grace Christian Raleigh (N/A, NCISAA 8-man): First year of varsity for the Eagles. Has two years of JV been enough preparation?

Granville Central (7-5, 3-2 Tar-Roanoke 1A): The Panthers have back-to-back 7-5 seasons. Could this be the best season yet?

Jordan-Matthews (3-8, 2-3 Mid-State 2A): The Jets have a bevy of seniors. Is it enough to reverse three losses by seven or less?

Kestrel Heights (3-8): The Hawks play four homeschool teams this year. Will the only NCHSAA independent team make the 1A playoffs again?

Lee County (9-3, 4-2 Cape Fear Valley 3A): The Yellow Jackets’ defense was tops in the area. Will the new faces on offense score enough to win games?

Louisburg (9-4, 4-1 Tar-Roanoke 1A): Warriors have won 17 games in the last two years. Can it keep going with a new head coach?

North Johnston (1-10, 0-5 Eastern Plains 2A): Last year, the Panthers snapped a 19-game losing streak. Can they build off that?

North Raleigh Christian (1-10, 0-3 NCISAA Big East): The Knights averaged just 12.3 points per game last year. Can they get back to their high-powered 2012 form?

Princeton (12-2, 5-1 Carolina 1A): No more Johnny Frasier or coach Derrick Minor. Will the program still be a 1A contender without them?

Ravenscroft (6-5, 3-0 NCISAA Big East): Eighteen starters are back. Home playoff game awaits?

Southern Lee (8-5, 4-2 Cape Fear Valley 3A): In coach Don Simon’s second year, team jumped from three wins to eight. Next jump: conference title?

St. David’s (7-4 NCISAA 8-man): Coach Daniel Evans had a solid first year. Can Warriors go deeper in playoffs?

Union Pines (6-6, 2-4, Cape Fear Valley 3A): The last time the Vikings went .500 in back-to-back seasons was 1997-98. Can they surprise some teams this year?

Wake Christian (8-5, 2-1 NCISAA Big East): The Bulldogs finally have depth. Will the more players equal more wins?

Word of God (6-3): The independent Holy Rams are coming off a pretty good first year of 11-man football. Are they ready to play five NCHSAA schools?

J. Mike Blake: 919-460-2606, @JMBpreps