High School Football is in gear for the 2017 season, so why not go around the county and see what's going on. Practices are underway, but the first regular season games take place August 18th.
East Rutherford has a big group of 44 on the varsity team this season and that's way up from the past. Most of their skills players are back, the whole offensive line are seniors and Coach Clint Bland is most excited about his defensive line.
"We look for more offensive production this season and I like that more kids chose to play. It creates competition and that is never a bad thing," Bland said.
Demetrius Mauney (Nearly 1,000 yards rushing/13 touchdowns) leads the offense while Cade Hamilton will be a beast at linebacker. An athletic Calvin Jones, defensive back Jordan Harris and defensive lineman Jay Wright all return.
R-S Central will have 32-40 kids on most nights to dress out. They have 76 overall between Varsity and JV.
However, this season is about the mindset change for new Varsity Football Head Coach Brad Hutchins.
Some would look at the schedule and think Central should win certain games, but the mentality has to change according to Hutchins, they won't assume anything anymore.
"I want us to play together as a family and make them believe that every game is like the last game for us," Hutchins said. "Every game is a big game, we can't take anything for granted."
They hope to use 11 different starters on each side of the ball and that would be huge in close games if they can manage to pull that off.
The former Central grad, who has coached at the varsity level with the Hilltoppers in the past, but not as a head coach, paced the middle school for the last few seasons.
"This is a great community to live in and the support has been really good to see so far,"Hutchins said. "I am confident in our coaching staff and players. No matter how hard we push the players, they seem to give the work effort I expect."
Like always, a new coaching change creates a buzz, so it will be interesting to see how the Hilltoppers fair in 2017.
Jayden Waddell is back as the signal caller, Brandon Smith will move to wide out from defensive back and Damarcus Johnson heads up what should be a tough defense.
Chase will be young this season, but have a favorable schedule with Cherryville, Bessemer City, East Henderson and Avery County among teams to play before the conference schedule kicks in. Polk and Brevard will be very tough challenges during that six-game stretch.
Thomas Jefferson has the biggest varsity roster of any at 48. There is a ton of hype especially with the conference breakdown, the non-conference schedule and a list of kids that played last year returning. They have won 38 games in the last four years, so it's easy to see that they could return to another double-digit winning season or even better.
Forest City Owls hosted the #4 West seed in the Coastal Plain League this week and should they win, will go for the West title this weekend 8/10-8/12. If they keep on winning, it's to the Pettit Cup Championship round 8/14-8/16. Should Forest City win it all, they will become the third team in history to win the CPL title three times and tie for first in that category.
Congrats to Nate (13 years old) and Jacob Ellenburg (11 years old) for making the Regional USA Southeast Youth baseball team (13U NTIS). Nate will go to Cary, NC this weekend to compete. Jacob goes on the August 24th-27th.