The process of building the football program at Person High took a big step forward last year, as the Rockets went to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and finished 6-6.
Head coach David Kleine, entering his fourth year as head coach and 16th in the program, has given the program the continuity it sorely lacked after he became the eighth coach in 12 years.
“I saw the commonality of head coaches not staying long enough to give the kids a chance to understand the scheme and understand the system,” Kleine said. “I thought it was going to take four years to make the playoffs. We beat the curve by a year.”
Who are some players to watch?
Wide receiver Dontavian Smith is the defending 4A track champion in the 200-meter dash and one of the nation’s best. He scored six different ways last year – via fumble return, interception return, punt return, kickoff return, rushing and receiving.
Tyrique Wright at running back and H-back Justin Obie form a solid trio of weapons no matter if Drew Clayton or Malik Williams wins the quarterback job. Defensive lineman Kennan Solomon has high recruiting interest.
What’s a team strength this year?
If you take just PAC-6 Conference play, the Rockets graduated just one starter on the offensive or defensive lines. There’s good size on both sides of the ball.
What needs improvement?
Despite going 3-3 in league play, the Rockets averaged just 14.8 points per game in the PAC-6. Closing strong will be pivotal.
More on the Rockets
Last year: 6-6 (3-3 PAC-6 4A), first round 4A playoffs
Five year average: 3-8 (1-4)
Preseason N&O rank: Unranked
Offense: Spread, Multiple
Coaches: David Kleine (Head coach/Off. coordinator), Don Donovan (Co-Def. coordinator/LBs), Bryan Hurdle (Co-Def. coordinator/DBs), Rob Rogers (junior varsity/RBs), Ryan Wilson (WRs), Bob Morgan (WRs), Dale Honeycutt (OL), Andrew Obie (OL), Andrew Haga (DL), Jeremy Clayton (DL), Michael Johnson (LBs), Kendall Cobb (LBs), Randy Oakley (WRs/DBs), Justin Campbell (DBs), Jamie Phelps (football operations manager), William Stephens (volunteer)
Contributors: Tyrique Wright (Sr., RB), Fred Harris (Jr., RB), Dontavian Smith (Sr., WR/DB), Justin Obie (Sr., TE),Chris Canter (Sr., OL), Josh Harris (Soph., OL), Matthew Long (Jr. OL), Kennan Solomon (Sr., DL), Shawndale Sanford (Sr., DL), Zack Ellis (Sr., LB), Justice Cotton (Sr., DB), Shamur Bailey (Jr., DB)
The main number: 6 – number of ways Smith scored last year – via fumble return, interception return, punt return, kickoff return, rushing and receiving. And that was in a four-game stretch.
Aug. 19 vs. Orange, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Granville Central, 7 p.m.
Sep. 2 at Enloe, 7 p.m.
Sep. 9 at Halifax County (Va.), 7 p.m.
Sep. 16 at Bartlett-Yancey, 7 p.m.
Sep. 23* vs. Jordan , 7 p.m.
Sep. 30 BYE
Oct. 7* at East Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14* vs. Northern Durham, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21* at Cardinal Gibbons, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* vs. Riverside, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* at Hillside, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game.