High School Sports

PrepsNow Playbook: Practicing on Thanksgiving is every team’s goal

Middle Creek's Daniel Jackson claps for the student section as time runs out in Millbrook's playoff football game at Middle Creek on Friday, November 20, 2015. Middle Creek won the game 35-14.
Middle Creek's Daniel Jackson claps for the student section as time runs out in Millbrook's playoff football game at Middle Creek on Friday, November 20, 2015. Middle Creek won the game 35-14. newsobserver.com

The novelty of Thanksgiving Day practice is the goal for every football team in the N.C. High School Athletic Association.

A player may have to ask his family to change routine – but there are more good things about practicing on Thanksgiving than bad.

It means you’re one of the last eight teams standing in your division. If you practice on this holiday frequently enough, your program is considered one of the state’s best.

But it’s also a special time.

Before they gather with their families, players from Fuquay-Varina, Middle Creek, Hillside, Cleveland, Southern Durham and Bunn will all gather for a morning walk-through with the football family they’ve grown close to in the last year.

Some teams will have a Thanksgiving breakfast before or afterward.

It’s a time of bonding and reflection.

The season started in August, but the offseason workouts and spring practice date back longer. The two-a-days in the heat and nonconference games where the chemistry hadn’t yet formed are long in the past, but not forgotten.

Somewhere along the way, teammates became brothers.

No one knows if Thanksgiving Day is their last practice together. But they’ve made it this far, and it’s something to be thankful for.

The Starting 11: players of the week

(Times named to The Starting 11 in parentheses)

Josh Arrington, Fuquay-Varina (1): Ran 29 times for 186 yards and one touchdown.

Jaylan Burton, Northern Durham (2): Returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.

Chauncey Caldwell, Hillside (2): Completed 11 of 16 passes for 263 yards and three TDs with just one interception.

Donald Fuller, Ravenscroft (2): Ran 18 times for 152 yards and four TDs.

DeAndre Jones, Middle Creek (1): Ran 22 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Caiden Norman, Cleveland (7): Completed 22 of 31 passes for 318 yards and three TDs, ran 15 times for 47 yards and one TD.

Tevin Perry, Bunn (5): Ran 21 times for 238 yards and three TDs.

Larry Rountree III, Millbrook (4): Ran 26 times for 118 yards and one touchdown, threw a 42-yard pass.

Tamille Royster, Granville Central (1): Caught 11 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Daeshawn Stephens, Hillside (2): Caught six passes for 205 yards and two TDs.

Bryse Wilson, Orange (4): Ran 28 times for 239 yards and two TDs, caught a 32-yard pass.

3-point stance: top defenses

Cleveland: The Rams took a Gray’s Creek team that had scored 69 points the week before and pitched a first-half shutout in a 36-18 win.

Hillside: Had a first-half shutout in a 42-14 romp against Hoggard.

Southern Durham: The Spartans were the definition of bend-but-don’t break. Orange ran for 349 yards but Southern prevailed 17-14.

Quick hits

▪ Wake Forest’s second-round exit means the Cougars will not be playing in the 4AA East final for the first time since 2012. The Cougars have a remarkable 20-7 playoff record over the last seven years.

▪ With Scotland County also losing in the 4A West, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the 4A AP poll to end the year are eliminated. No. 2 in 3A, Havelock, was also upset.

▪ Since 2000, this is Southern Durham’s ninth appearance in the third round. No one in the Triangle has more. It’s Bunn and Hillside’s sixth appearance in that time, and Middle Creek’s and Fuquay-Varina’s third. Cleveland, which has only had varsity football for five seasons, is also making its third trip.

▪ With Havelock’s upset loss to Eden’s Morehead High, Craven County schools were shut out of the third round for the first time since 2006.

▪ This is the last PrepsNow Playbook of the year. Cleveland’s Caiden Norman was named to The Starting 11 team seven times in 14 weeks, leading all greater Triangle players. East Wake’s Tripp Harrington and Bunn’s Tevin Perry made the list five times. In all, players from 47 area schools, spanning 10 counties, made The Starting 11.


Middle Creek is the hot ticket: If about 4,000 patrons made it to Fuquay-Varina High for the first Middle Creek meeting this year, how many more will be on hand Friday for the third round at Middle Creek? Middle Creek is selling advance tickets to the general public on Wednesday from 10 a.m. until noon just inside the school’s entrance. Middle Creek, which opened in 2002, has one of the best entrances in high school football. As “We Ready” blares over the speakers, the players emerge from the smoke in the stands, walking by a feverish student section before taking the field.

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