Now that we’ve wrapped up our series of spring football previews of the 10 Cumberland County senior high schools, it’s time to take a first shot at predicting how everyone will fare this season.
Not wanting to venture into this challenge alone, I spent some time discussing who has what with Trey Edge of DK Sports, Inc., play-by-play announcer for Terry Sanford football.
After mulling over the prospects for all 10 teams, here’s what we mutually agreed on how things might develop. One thing to note: This is a ranking of all 10 schools regardless of what league they’ll be in this fall.
The old Mid-South 4-A and Cape Fear Valley 3-A Conferences are history. Most of the county schools will be in the Patriot Conference, a 4-A/3-A combination that will include Overhills and all the Cumberland County schools except Jack Britt and Seventy-First.
The Buccaneers and the Falcons will be joining the members of what was the Southeastern 4-A Conference in the new Sandhills Conference.
So here’s a quick projection on how the teams rank:
1. Cape Fear – Quarterback Justice Galloway-Velazquez is being recruited heavily by mid-major colleges. He’s expected to be in a walking boot recovering from ankle surgery until just before the start of official fall practice on July 31. With him back and Cape Fear coming off its best football season ever, the Colts should be a solid team again.
2. Seventy-First – Duran McLaurin has clearly established his program as a consistent winner. With the numbers he has to work with, the Falcons are always going to be in the title hunt, even in the tough new Sandhills Conference.
3. Terry Sanford – The Bulldogs have a new coach, Bruce McClelland, who is no stranger to the school. They also return a top passing combination in Christian and Andrew Jayne. If Terry Sanford can find some defense, the Bulldogs should have another strong year.
4. South View – The Tigers appeared to turn a corner last year but still misfired on taking the step into the first division. Rodney Brewington has some offense back, but more consistent defense is going to be crucial.
5. Pine Forest – The Trojans have an assortment of veterans back at key positions, but replacing Julian Hill at quarterback is a concern, not to mention rebuilding the defensive secondary.
6. Jack Britt – Is Brian Randolph the answer as the new coach for the Buccaneers? Britt has never had back-to-back losing seasons, and Randolph will try to avoid that in his first season on Rockfish Road.
7. E.E. Smith – The Golden Bulls got off to a rocky start under first-year coach Deron Donald. They’ll need to find some answers at a number of positions, especially in the line, to contend this year.
8. Gray’s Creek – The Bears were well off their normally consistent game last season, hurt badly by injuries to the offensive line. Finding a new quarterback to operate the confusing Bear offense is going to be crucial.
9. Westover – Craig Raye, younger brother of E.E. Smith legend Jimmy Raye and a veteran college coach, was named to replace Stephen Roberson last week. He’ll face a challenge with a late start as he tries to build on the momentum of the Wolverines sharing the Cape Fear Valley 3-A title last season.
10. Douglas Byrd – The Eagles are still climbing back into the picture. Numbers continue to be a problem as Mike Paroli tries to take Byrd back to its glory years of the 1990s.