Coach Brian Foster’s Southern Nash program hasn’t looked back since reaching the 2009 state semifinals. The Firebirds have reeled off seven straight winning seasons, never losing more than three regular-season games.
In three of the last four seasons, the Firebirds (10-3, 4-1) have taken second place in the always-competitive Big East Conference.
“For the last few years we’ve been right there,” Foster said. “It takes a lot of luck, you’ve got to keep people healthy, you’ve got to get a call here or there.”
Who are some players to watch?
Running back Kendrick Bell, a junior, had 918 yards on the ground. Jerod Wright had eight interceptions, but teams who throw the other way will get Nadir Thompson, a state track champion, at the other corner.
Demetris Perry is a hard-nosed fullback who had six sacks at defensive end. At linebacker, Southern Nash has experience with Dae’one Wilkins, Alex Puente and Tremane Williams.
What players will they miss the most?
It’ll be hard to replace this trio: quarterback Zack Foster – the school’s all-time leading passer, Tahj Deans – the career leader in receiving yards, and Jaquay Mitchell (Lenoir-Rhyne) – third in career all-purpose yards. Deans also leaves a void in the secondary as a three-year starter.
Matt Hampton and Michael Zimmerman are battling with Lorenzo Sessoms for the starting quarterback and safety spots.
Can the Firebirds knock off Rocky Mount?
Should the Firebirds answer questions along the line and under center, it’s a reasonable goal for Southern Nash to try and unseat their rivals from atop the Big East. The two sides meet on Oct. 28 at Southern Nash.
While that may be the team’s goal, Foster knows his team must first navigate a nonconference schedule that includes three defending conference champs.
“I think we can win most of our games and I think we can lose most of our games,” Foster said. “When you play a county rival, when you play a team you’re used to, it’s just fun. Their kids get up for it and our kids get up for it.”
More on the Firebirds
Last year: 10-3* (4-1 Big East 3A), 3A second round
Five year average: 9-4 (3-2)
Preseason N&O rank: 18th
Offense: Double Wing
Coaches: Brian Foster (head coach), Brian Batchelor (Off. coordinator/OL), Robbie Kennedy (Def. coordinator/ILBs), Brian Rice (RBs), Sterling Leonard (FBs), Adam Monts De Oca (OL), Kwamaine Battle and Buddy Williams (DL), Jesse Mercer (OLBs), Jordan Bass (DBs).
Contributors: Kendrick Bell (Jr., RB), Nadir Thompson (Jr., RB/WR/DB), Demetris Perry (Sr., FB/DL), Nathan Paris (Sr., TE), Josh Taylor (Sr., OL), Hunter Perry (Jr., TE/DL), Na’sheen Cooley (Jr., DL), (Dae’one Wilkins (Jr., LB), Alex Puente (Sr., LB), Tremane Williams (Sr., LB), Jerod Wright (Sr., CB)
The main number: 7 – Starting with an out-of-nowhere run to the 3AA East final in 2009, the Firebirds have had seven straight winning seasons with no more than four losses.
*Was 9-4 but received a retroactive forfeit win from Eastern Alamance
Aug. 19 vs. Northwood, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 at Beddingfield, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 1 vs. at Bunn#, 6:30 p.m.
Sep. 9 vs. South Johnston, 7 p.m.
Sep. 16 vs. Tarboro, 7 p.m.
Sep. 23 at Ayden-Grifton, 7 p.m.
Sep. 30 BYE
Oct. 7* vs. Fike, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14* at Northern Nash, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21* vs. Hunt, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* vs. Rocky Mount, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* at Nash Central, 7 p.m.
Note: *conference game; #Thursday game