Archive for December, 2006

All-Area team

December 26, 2006

Here’s the article from Tuesday’s Dispatch about our all-area team:

Dispatch Sports Editor

If you ever walk the halls at Southern Vance High School, you’re likely to be bombarded by any number of slogans.
One of them — “it takes teamwork to make the dream work” — aptly describes the 2006 Raider football team.
The team’s run to a 2AA State Championship appearance captivated a community and led to praise for both players and coaches.
The latest accolades come today.
Junior quarterback Jamere Pugh, pictured at right, is the Daily Dispatch Player of the Year and David Jennings is the Coach of the Year.
Pugh chased down Webb’s Antwan Thorpe for top honors with a remarkable postseason, including a 304-yard, four TD game against Forest Hills in the 2AA Eastern Finals and a superior effort in the later stages of the title game against Shelby.
Jennings, at right, led the Raiders to their first-ever state title game appearance and is already the school’s all-time
leader in victories.

Player of the Year —
Jamere Pugh, Southern Vance
Coach of the Year —
David Jennings, Southern Vance

QB — Jamere Pugh, Southern Vance
RB — O’Darren Gill, Southern Vance
RB — Mark Ellis, Southern Vance
WR — Patrick Rhem, Northern Vance
WR — Lebarron Burwell, J.F. Webb
WR — David Person, Southern Vance
OL — Ryan Haskins, Southern Vance
OL — Jerald Hunter, Southern Vance
OL — Daronte Hawley, Southern Vance
OL — Paul McCaskill, Northern Vance
OL — Nathaniel Crowe, Warren County
Athlete — Antwan Thorpe, J.F. Webb
DL — Daronte Hawley, Southern Vance
DL — Jerald Hunter, Southern Vance
DL — Alvis Dowtin, Warren County
DL — Sekedric Royster, J.F. Webb
LB — Justin Wilkerson, J.F. Webb
LB — Detroy Harris, Southern Vance
LB — Demario Sims, Warren County
DB — Darrius Williams, Warren County
DB — William Alston, J.F. Webb
DB — Donald Robinson, Southern Vance
DB — Rakim Henderson, Northern Vance

Special Teams
K — Corey Leslie, J.F. Webb
P — Malik Jizi, J.F. Webb
Return specialist —
Patrick Rhem, Northern Vance


Associated Press All-State Ballot

December 23, 2006

Blatant homerism aside, this is how I voted for the A.P. All-State team…

Oh, and Merry Christmas everyone…

Player of the Year: Lance Camp, Burns
Coach of the Year: David Jennings, Southern Vance
QB: Camp
RB: Nic Cooper, Clinton
RB: Quan Warley, Thomasville
WR: Dwight Jones, Cummings
WR: Jason Barnes, Indy
TE: Weslye Saunders, Riverside
OL: Quinn Barham, Hillside
OL: Kwamaine Battle, S. Nash
OL: Henry Lawson, Char. Catholic
OL: David Melton, West Rowan
OL: Josh Reese, Alex. Central
ATH: Tobias Palmer, Northwood
DL: Jerald Hunter, S. Vance
DL: Daronte Hawley, S. Vance
DL: Linwan Euwell, SW Edgecombe
DL: Tristan Dorty, W. Rowan
LB: Melvin Ingram, Richmond County
LB: Albert Craddock, SW Guilford
LB: Austin Johnson, Hickory
DB: Eric Breitenstein, Watauga
DB: Julian Carter, New Bern
DB: Robert Blanton, Butler
DB: Ed Gainey, Mt. Tabor
K: Andrew Crutchfield, NW Cabarrus
P: Davisho Shaw, St. Pauls
KR: Tyree Bullock, Hillside

One last state title game piece

December 12, 2006

My column from Tuesday’s Dispatch…

I interview a lot of coaches and hear plenty of interesting things, so when I sat down in front of Southern Vance football coach David Jennings in Raleigh at the state championship press conference last week, I was ready for just about anything.

But I was a little surprised when he said this:

“The Southern Vance Raiders aren’t coming to Winston-Salem to watch a coronation. They’re coming to play football. You better believe it. Shelby better be ready to play football. We’re not coming to watch someone raise a trophy, we’re coming to play football.”

It set the tone for a week of preparation that led to the Raiders giving the Golden Lions everything they wanted in the title game before falling by three points.

Aside from the kicking game, the experience was about all you could ask for from a team that had never been in a state title game before.

In fact, Southern Vance is only 99-92 all time, compared to Shelby’s 644 wins. Shelby has won 11 titles, while the Raiders are still waiting for their first one.

Why do I bring this up? Rome, my friends, wasn’t built in a day.

And neither was Shelby.

It takes time, hard work and dedication to build a program. It takes summer weight lifting, seven-on-seven passing leagues and a desire to want to out-work everyone on your schedule 365 days a year.

And it takes experience.

The pain of watching another team hoist the trophy, having to stand there and clap for them after giving your all. Being outnumbered two-to-one in fan support (though, the Raiders had a very good following), getting booed at every turn and doubted by everyone not wearing the school colors.

It takes all those things. And Jennings and company, whether anyone outside of the Tri-County area realizes it or not, are building the kind of program that can compete for a state title on a yearly basis.

Let’s back up a second, though. The hit that knocked Shelby quarterback Darryl Montgomery out of the game for the second quarter has received some attention on messageboards, with some Shelby fans questioning whether it was late, dirty or even a directive from the Raider coaching staff.

Perhaps no one else in the world knows all three players involved like I do, so here’s my take.

David Brodie hit him first – not late, by the way – from the QB’s left. The impact of that blow moved Montgomery, and his head, to the right and into the path of Diral Burwell.

It was a helmet-to-helmet hit, but it was unintentional. And since the only high school rule on the books that addresses using the helmet for tackling relates to spearing, it was a legal one.

I met the two defensive linemen last week, and the type of kids that won’t give you any smack talk for interviews don’t go out headhunting between the lines.

As for Darryl, he’s a great kid and a fantastic football player. I’m thankful that he’s OK, and glad that the young man that struggled so much in the 2004 state title game bounced back to have success in the next two such contests.

Now, back to the Raiders.

Jennings has four straight winning seasons, and the Raiders haven’t had a losing record since 1998. He’s already the school’s all-time leader in wins (41) and postseason victories (7).

And there are bullets in the gun for next year. Jamere Pugh, O’Darren Gill, David Person, several starters on the offensive line – Ryan Milton, Shawn Harris and Ryan Haskins – Burwell, Brodie, Rickey Nile and Daric Hawkins are returning next season.

You think they might be motivated?

Kudos to Southern Vance for making a bit of history this season – and helping me cover my fourth straight championship team.

I wouldn’t close that book just yet, though. I get the feeling that there’s more history to be written in the not-too-distant future.

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Raiders fall short

December 10, 2006

Great game Saturday. Here’s my story…

By RANDY CAPPS, Dispatch Sports Editor

WINSTON-SALEM – Less than four minutes into Saturday’s 2AA State Championship game, Shelby was in front of Southern Vance 14-0.

Yet Southern had the defending champion Golden Lions right where it wanted them.

The Raiders rallied and led in the third quarter before falling behind again en route to a 27-24 defeat.

It was a game that saw Shelby quarterback Darryl Montgomery leave on a stretcher in the first quarter, only to return to the field and win the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

The win was the 21st in a row for Shelby (16-0) and marks the Lions’ second-consecutive state title. The Raiders finish their season at 13-3.

“Our kids played well,” Southern Vance coach David Jennings said. “They fought hard. I’m proud of them.”

The Raiders indeed went down swinging, but not before they got knocked to the mat themselves in the early going.

Shelby received the opening kickoff and scored on its first play from scrimmage, a 71-yard option keeper by Montgomery.

“I believe if you’re playing our offense you try to take away the fullback,” Shelby coach Chris Norman said. “That’s our first option. Darryl made a good read on the dive and they didn’t have anybody over the top on the quarterback. He was able to get in into the secondary and take it down there.”

Southern didn’t respond well on its first drive, turning the ball over on its first possession. Jamere Pugh, who was later named the Outstanding Offensive Player for the runners-up, fumbled on the third play from scrimmage.

Shelby recovered, but was kept off the scoreboard when Tyler Rabb’s 47-yard field goal try bounced off the crossbar.

The next drive wasn’t much better, ending on a three-and-out. To make matters worse, a five-yard punt helped the Lions set up shop on the Raider 31, and Shelby cashed in two plays later on another Montgomery keeper, this time from 30 yards out.

Pugh was picked off again on the Raiders’ next drive, and things seemed to be spinning out of control for Southern Vance.

Diral Burwell, the Outstanding Defensive Player for Southern, then turned the game on its ear, delivering a shot to Montgomery on a third-down play that drew the ire of the Shelby faithful and a personal foul on Norman for aruging about it. Montgomery was carted into the locker room, where he received five stitches under his right eye and was checked for a concussion.

“I didn’t really know what was going on until they got me in the locker room,” he said. “I was passed out, then I woke up and they started asking me questions. They asked me five numbers to remember – 1,7, 14, 21 and 28 – and they said if I could remember them, I could go back in.”

Before Montgomery’s unlikely return after halftime, the Raiders spent some time on one of their patented comebacks.

Late in the second quarter with the score still 14-0, Southern took over on its own 17 yard-line, and Pugh finally got into a rhythm. The junior quarterback completed passes to Sam Faulkner and O’Darren Gill on the drive before calling his own number on a quarterback draw, cutting it to the left sideline and outrunning the Shelby secondary for a 65-yard touchdown.

A two-point conversion try was no good when Pugh’s pass to Theo Perry sailed high, and it was 14-6.

The Raiders went for two after its first three scores before missing an extra point on its fourth try.

“Our kicking game has been struggling the past few weeks,” Jennings said. “So, when we game planned this week, we decided that we’d go for two. We worked on our two-point plays this week. We just didn’t execute them.”

Kicking woes aside, the “Cardiac Raiders” were just getting started.

After a fumble by Shelby’s backup quarterback Howard Thompson, Southern took over on the Golden Lion 41 with just over a minute left in the first half.

That would be more than enough time for the Raiders, as Pugh would hook up with David Person down the left sideline on a 39-yard scoring strike, and the second missed conversion left the score at 14-12 at the break.

Montgomery came out with the Lions to start the third quarter, but he could only watch while Southern took the lead in its first-ever state title game.

A five-play, 68-yard march ended with another Pugh-to-Person strike against Shrine Bowl cornerback Preston Roseboro – this one from 24 yards out – for an 18-14 lead.

Montgomery then brought Shelby out onto the field to a huge roar from the Shelby fans, giving the defending champions a lift.

“They got a lot of energy when No. 12 came back,” Jennings said of Montgomery’s return. “It was an emotional lift for them when he came back, because I thought they got a little flat when he went out.”

The two teams swapped punts and Shelby took over at the Southern 27. Arsenio Parks – a Shrine Bowler at fullback and Shelby’s Outstanding Offensive Player – scored on a third-and-three play from the 20 yard-line to put the Lions back in front. The senior, who finished with 124 yards and two scores, also credited his quarterback’s return with the team’s inspired play.

“We had faith in Howard,” he said. “But we knew Darryl was the better man for it.”

Southern stalled on its next drive, and Shelby kept the ball until early in the fourth quarter when Parks scored again on a third-and-short play from 15 yards away. A missed point-after try made it 27-18, and the Raiders were down two scores again.

For exactly 18 seconds.

That’s how long it took for Shelby to kickoff, Southern to receive and for Pugh to toss his third touchdown pass of the day – a 65-yard screen and run to Mark Ellis – to trim the lead back to three at 27-24.

Shelby seemed to be heading in for a score on its next drive, only to watch as Larry Raper, one of three Shelby backs with more than 100 yards rushing, fumble on the Raider one-yard line after a hit from Donald Robinson. Gill was there for the recovery, and Southern dodged a bullet.

Unfortunately, Pugh and company weren’t able to move the ball the rest of the way, posting three-and-outs on their next two drives.

The game, however, was still in doubt before Raper gained 15 yards on a fourth-and-seven play with just over a minute left to seal the win.

Losing the game, of course, was disappointing for Jennings and his team. But the coach was already looking to the big picture after the contest.

“The kids are already saying ‘we’ll be back,’” he said. “When they left the field, they were saying ‘we’ll be back.’ It should be simple getting the guys up here for workouts this summer. I’m proud of the guys, I’m proud of our fans. We had a great fans. We fell short in a few areas. We didn’t win the game, but for my dollar, Southern Vance football is on the map.

“Overall, a great win for them and a heck of a high school football game.”

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Getting defensive

December 7, 2006

By RANDY CAPPS, Dispatch Sports Editor

What weighs a little over half-a-ton, bleeds Raider blue and worries more about the greater good than personal glory?

The Southern Vance defensive line.

Seniors Jerald Hunter (6-3, 309) and Daronte Hawley (6-1, 305) and juniors Diral Burwell (5-8, 227) and David Brodie (5-10, 205) spearhead a Raider defense that’s allowing 11.5 points per game while posting three shutouts so far this season.

The quartet has turned it up another notch in the postseason, allowing just one touchdown after halftime in its four playoff wins.

“The defensive line is the strength of our defense,” Southern coach David Jennings said. “They set the table for everything else that we do. They’re always plugging along, trying to work as a unit.”

Ask each player about his job description and you get four different versions of the same answer – stop the run and keep offensive linemen off the linebackers.

Hunter has started every game for the Raiders since his freshman year with start No. 55 coming Saturday in the 2AA State Championship Game in Winston-Salem against Shelby.

He’s got 89 tackles on the season (26 solo, four sacks) despite drawing double teams as the focus of opposing game plans.

He didn’t talk much to reporters after practice on Tuesday, but he has plenty to say to his teammates during games.

“He’s definitely a leader on the field,” Jennings said. “He’s started every game here on the varsity level, so that’s pretty impressive stuff. He’s our vocal leader. He keeps everyone energized.”

“It’s wonderful,” Hunter said of the chance to play for a state title. “I’m just going to go out there and play my hardest.”

Hawley is the team’s leading tackler with 133 stops (25 solo) but he has yet to record a sack this season.

And if you ask his coach, that’s just the way the soft-spoken lineman wants it.

“He takes pride in the fact that he doesn’t have any sacks,” Jennings said. “That’s not his job. His job is to move up and down the line. That’s why he has so many assists. Most people try to run away from Jerald, so they run right to him. That gives him the opportunity to make plays.”

“We just want to play hard, stop the run and make them throw it,” Hawley said.

Ask him about his opinion of Shelby, and the answer’s short and to the point.

“They’re going to be all right,” Hawley said. “I think we can beat them, though.”

Burwell has 49 stops on the year and leads the team in sacks with 5.5.

“He’s our sack guy,” Jennings said. “He does a good job of getting to the quarterback.”

While he appreciates the Raiders’ accomplishment by reaching the title game, Burwell isn’t planning on stopping there.

“I think it’s really good that we made some history by getting this far,” he said. “We set our minds to it and made it our goal, so now we’re going for it.”

Brodie has added 101 tackles (17 solo, four sacks) on the year, and he led the team with 12 stops and a sack last week against Forest Hills.

“Recently, Brodie’s been playing phenomenally,” Jennings said. “It seems like he’s elevated his game as the playoffs have gone along.”

While he credits Shelby as a team, he’s not backing down from the challenge.

“They’re a good football team,” Brodie said. “We’re still going to do our best to beat them.”
And, of course, he’s excited about the opportunity.

“It feels good,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been in something like this. I started playing football when I got to Southern Vance, so it’s special to me.”

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Pugh, Person lead Raider aerial attack

December 6, 2006

From Wednesday’s Dispatch…

By RANDY CAPPS, Dispatch Sports Editor

When we last left Jamere Pugh, he was passing for 304 yards and four touchdowns in Southern Vance’s 32-26 win over Forest Hills in the 2AA Eastern Regional Final last week.

The junior quarterback was a little less emotional Tuesday afternoon after practice, but still excited about the opportunity to play Shelby for the 2AA State Championship Saturday afternoon in Winston-Salem.

“I’m excited, ready to play,” he said. “I’m just happy that I was able to help lead my team to a state championship (game).”

Pugh has passed for 1,559 yards and 16 touchdowns whiling rushing for 561 yards and 12 more scores this season and he’s well aware of the challenge awaiting him and his offensive mates this weekend.

“Our coaches broke down the film,” Pugh said. “They told us what to do, where to hit them in their weak spots and we’ll try to take advantage of that.”

Pugh’s favorite target is fellow junior David Person. Person has 35 grabs for 845 yards and nine scores this season, and he’s also excited about the chance to bring a title back to Southern Vance.

“It feels good to be in this position,” Person said. “But I haven’t really put that much emotion into it. I’m going to play it like a regular game.”

The Golden Lions are not exactly a regular team, and Person will likely be matched up with Shelby cornerback Preston Roseboro, a Shrine Bowl selection.

“I love to have competition,” he said. “I can show everybody what I can do against the best competition in the game. That’s what the college scouts are looking for, what I can do against the best athletes.”

Assuming that Person and Roseboro will be battling on one side of the field, it’s safe to say that Pugh may have to spread the wealth a bit on Saturday.

And he’s OK with that.

“I basically throw it to the guy that’s open,” Pugh said. “Last week, they were sending guys at me. So, I threw it to the backs because nobody was on them. When they blitz, the swing guys are wide open.”

Person had four catches for 124 yards last week against Forest Hills, but he’s fine with not necessarily being the primary target on every play.

“All I’m about is winning,” he said. “As long as somebody else can step up when all the pressure’s on me, I’m all right with it.”

Pressure shouldn’t be an issue for the “Cardiac Raiders” in the state title, since they’ve trailed at the half in three of their four postseason victories.

“We just had to stay positive,” Pugh said of those games. “We just had to make the plays we knew we could make.”

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A look at the Lions

December 5, 2006

A sneak peek at an item for Wednesday’s paper…

As part of our state championship coverage, The Dispatch is profiling Southern Vance’s opponent on Saturday, the Shelby Golden Lions

Dispatch Sports Editor

RALEIGH — If the challenge of playing a defending state champion riding a 20-game winning streak wasn’t enough, Southern Vance will also be facing one of the richest football traditions in the state when it lines up against the Shelby Golden Lions at in the 2AA State Championship at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem on Saturday.

The Golden Lions fielded their first team in 1911 and have won at least 643 games since then (records from 1914-1919 aren’t available) to become the winningest program in North Carolina High School football history.

Along the way, Shelby has won 10 NCHSAA or WNCHSAA (Western) state championships, 33 conference championships and more than 70 percent of its games. Since 1950, Shelby has had only two losing seasons – 1990 and 1955.

All of that success speaks to the stability in the head coach’s office. Chris Norman, in his ninth season at the helm, is only the fourth different coach at the school since 1936.

He owns two of those state titles as a head coach – 1998 and last season – but he isn’t about to start taking trips to the championship lightly.

“As I get older and in this longer, I think I cherish the opportunities more and more,” he said at Monday‘s press conference. “Last week at Pisgah was a great atmosphere for high school football. You know, we feel very fortunate to be back. And we’ll try to enjoy the ride home again.”

At about 4:28 p.m. on Saturday, the Shelby High drum line will start playing and the Golden Lions will take the field. They’ll run through a banner and start forming a pile at about the 40 yard-line, with players either gently lying on the top of the pile or the more daring – and lighter – players doing flips and twisting dives onto their teammates.

It’s been that way for a long time. Fans expect to see that pile, followed by a win on the field. Living up to those expectations can be tough.

“It’s intimidating sometimes,” Norman said. “Particularly being a hometown guy who played there and was directly influenced by two of those guys. To have played for Coach (Gerald) Allen and to have played under Coach (Jim) Taylor when he was an assistant coach and coming back to work for him, to have the opportunity to do what I’m doing is an awesome experience.

“It’s very demanding. It’s very stressful. I worry about all the little things, but to be a part of a school that has kind of tradition is very special. We don’t win every game. We don’t have the opportunity to be in this position every year, but it is a goal of ours to be here.”

One of those “little things” on Norman’s mind this week is the potential letdown factor after last week’s 28-20 win at previously unbeaten Canton Pisgah.

“There was a lot of hype for that game,” he said. “One of my assistants and I were talking about it and we thought that there hadn’t been that kind of hype since we played Cummings in the Western Finals (in 2004). We worry about that. Emotions are such a big part of high school football. To get in that kind of atmosphere with a big crowd, 12,000-plus, yeah you worry about it.

“But we’re playing for a state championship against a good team. This isn’t the time of year to letdown.”

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Southern Vance vs. Shelby

December 5, 2006

Here’s the first installment…

RALEIGH — Southern Vance coach David Jennings was just one of 16 head coaches on hand at Carter-Finley Stadium Monday for the NCHSAA State Championship Press Conference Monday, and even though it was his first such gathering, he was all business.

And in the days leading up to his team’s Saturday date with the undefeated defending state champion Shelby Golden Lions, he’s not backing down from the challenge.

“The Southern Vance Raiders aren’t coming to Winston-Salem to watch a coronation,” he said. “They’re coming to play football. You better believe it. Shelby better be ready to play football. We’re not coming to watch someone raise a trophy, we’re coming to play football.”

If the Raiders (13-2) are indeed underdogs against the Lions (15-0), Shelby coach Chris Norman isn’t acting like it.

“They’re athletic,” he said. “Their quarterback reminds me of Lance Camp at Burns High School back in our county. He’s all-everything, setting county records in the playoffs. They run shotgun with a lot of motion and they do a good job of getting people open. The quarterback is so quick and fast. Our guys have seen people like that, but still, it’s different.

“And they don’t panic. They play from behind really well.”

The “Cardiac Raiders” have made a living by coming from behind in the postseason, erasing 16-0 and 19-0 deficits in back-to-back weeks against Northwood and Forest Hills. Jennings hopes that experience will pay off this weekend.

“The never-say-die attitude is a great aspect of our team,” he said. “It’s sort of our mantra. One thing I’m proud of our kids about is that they will play 48 minutes, whether they’re behind or ahead, and as a football coach, that’s all you can ask for.”

While the Raiders have the benefit of two recent rallies under their belts, Shelby has a different kind of experience.

The Golden Lions have played in the past two state title games, falling 49-21 to SouthWest Onslow in 2004 and knocking off Reidsville last year, 26-18.

“We’ve got a group of seniors that have been in big ball games,” Norman said. “I hope that they know how to respond. But there are still young guys, teenagers and it’s different. It’s a different experience, playing in a bigger stadium that they’ve seen on TV on Saturdays. You hope that, after a few minutes, they calm down and play football.”

Staying collected will be key for Southern Vance, making its first trip to the championships in school history.

“I think it’s finally sunk in that we’re going to do this,” Jennings said. “It’s a great honor playing in a state championship game. You never know if you’re ever going to get another chance to play in one, but hopefully with our program, we will.”

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Strange, but true

December 1, 2006

I’ve really got to be more careful about the games I decide to watch.

Crossroads Christian beat Cornerstone Christian 86-2 Thursday night. That’s right. 86-2. And really, it could have been far worse. The Patriots attempted one shot in the first quarter, turning it over 20 times while falling behind 41-1.

If that wasn’t surreal enough, the Colts went into the four corners offense – hold the ball and not shoot for non-basketball fans – in the fourth quarter and the Cornerstone parents booed and yelled for Crossroads to “play ball” and “shoot it.”

It was 72-2 at the time.

This is the craziest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I give credit to the players at Cornerstone for playing hard and to the Colts for not hanging 150 on a vastly over matched foe.

And the girls game was 52-8. Almost seems normal by comparison.