The Two Rivers 3A Conference was one of the most competitive in the state last year from a simple win-loss production standpoint. There was a three-team tie for the conference championship between Cleveland, Corinth Holders and South Johnston.
That trio should sit on the upper half of the league ladder this year, but traditional winner Triton is expected to bounce back and Smithfield-Selma and Western Harnett are getting closer to being teams in the playoff conversation.
There’s a long haul of a nonconference slate for everybody in the league before the second season (conference games) finally starts Oct. 9. Who survives August and September healthy at those more inexperienced positions on the field?
New coaches will make their debuts at Corinth Holders (Bubba Williams) and Smithfield-Selma (Wes Hill).
Sorting out the field
Favorite: South Johnston. The Trojans have the most experienced team.
Underdog: Triton. How much of an aberration was last year’s winless campaign?
Dark horse: Cleveland. The Rams return nearly their entire offense.
Seven players to know
Trey Adams, Corinth Holders: Hybrid defensive end/linebacker totaled 101/2 sacks as a sophomore.
Corey Brown, Cleveland: Totaled more than 2,200 yards from scrimmage, 24 TDs as a junior.
Zach Jacobs, Cleveland: Senior center is the anchor of a veteran, talented Rams’ offensive line.
Tim Lee, Western Harnett: Another big-producing freshman last year, starting on offense and defense. The Eagles will need him to help lead a young offensive unit.
DeParis Patterson, South Johnston: Junior quarterback is a proven leader and producer (1,823 passing yards, 576 rushing yards in 2014).
Raequan Smith, Smithfield-Selma: Senior will be a leader, specifically the wing-T running attack both with the ball in his hands and as a leader.
De’Marius Staten, Triton: Set himself apart as a freshman, physically and from a production standpoint at fullback.
Mark your calendars
Oct. 16, South Johnston at Cleveland: The first of the three meetings between the league’s tri-champions from last season.
Oct. 30, Corinth Holders at South Johnston: The second of those meetings likely will set up the playoff scenarios for. …
Nov. 6, Cleveland at Corinth Holders: The third of those meetings. The Pirates’ win last year set up the three-champion jumble last season.
One statement, one question
Cleveland (10-3, 4-1): The reigning tri-champs have been the most consistent team in the conference. Will the added defensive quickness equal less points allowed?
Corinth Holders (9-4, 4-1): The Pirates, also a tri-champ last season, have continually gotten better each season. Will an inexperienced lineup of passing-game contributors (quarterback, receivers) produce?
South Johnston (5-7, 4-1): There probably wasn’t a better five-win team in the state last year. Can South Johnston carry over its late-season momentum to 2015?
Smithfield-Selma (3-8, 2-3): Last year’s two conference wins were a rarity of recent years for the Spartans. Can they get to conference play (Oct. 9) healthy and ready to make a playoff push?
Western Harnett (4-7, 1-4): The Eagles’ early-season strength will be the speed and talent on defense. Who steps up to provide the big yardage on offense?
Triton (0-11, 0-5): The Hawks still are a team that will be driven by the wing-T running attack. Does the commitment to letting younger players stay on junior varsity and get playing time pay off?