- Thursday, 21 November 2019
- Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
Cape Fear • Tennis• Senior
Cameron has a grade point average of 4.63. She is active in the Harvard Model Congress, Health Occupations Students of America, the Science Olympiad and the Environmental Club. She is a volunteer at the hospital, pet daycare, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden and at the Cape Fear tennis camp.
Cape Fear• Golf/softball• Senior
Blackwell has a 4.57 grade point average. She finished third in this year’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A golf tournament. She’s active in the Student Government Association, Fayetteville Technical Community College High School Connections and the school mentor program. She’s a member of the National Honor Society and a graduation marshal. She’s also active in her church.
Coming off a 26-4 season that included a deep run in the state 4-A basketball tournament, Seventy-First boys coach David Simmons knows he’s got a tough act to follow as the 2019-20 season begins this week.
“It was a bittersweet end in Raleigh last year,’’ he said, referring to Seventy-First’s advance to the fourth round of the state playoffs with an 80-71 loss to top East seed and perennial power Raleigh Millbrook.
Two of the top players from last year’s squad graduated, Brion McLaurin and Xzavier Howard.
McLaurin was a two-year starter who led the team in both scoring and rebounding both years.
Howard came on strong at the end of the season.
But Simmons is optimistic about a crop of young frontcourt players arriving who he hopes will quickly mesh with some experienced backcourt players returning.
The key cog in the Falcon program this year appears to be 6-foot senior swingman Alvin Freeman, along with point guard Quiones Clayton. “Alvin is going to be a senior leader along with Quiones,’’ Simmons said. Clayton is the leading returner in assists with 2.0 per game.
“Both those guys are going to help get our young frontcourt up to date,’’ Simmons said.
Two freshmen and a sophomore give the Falcons solid height in the low post.
Freshman Derrick Green, who stands 6-feet-7 and weights 275 pounds, is slated to occupy the post position.
He’ll be joined down low by 6-foot-7, 290-pound sophomore Kaleb Siler and 6-foot-5, 190-pound freshman Cameron Shelton.
Green is the most promising of the trio and has already gotten some college interest Simmons said.
Another promising player in the backcourt who is returning to the Falcon roster following a knee injury two years ago is 5-foot-11, 170 pound senior Isaiah Oratokhai.
“He played as a ninth grader,’’ Simmons said.
Looking at the whole county, Simmons thinks Seventy-First will be like many other teams this season as local basketball has hit a cycle where a new crop of players is arriving at multiple schools.
“You want to have some veterans,’’ Simmons said. “I’m hoping and praying our backcourt and their leadership will help our young guys. If the young guys follow the leadership of Alvin and the rest of the seniors we should be okay.’’
Freeman said he and fellow senior Clayton both enter the season hungry after failing to reach the state 4-A championship game last season.
He agrees with Simmons that rapid development of the big but young frontcourt will be key for the Falcons.
“I want to be a vocal leader on and off the court,’’ he said, “make some shots and get my team more involved.’’
With all that size down low, Freeman thinks the Falcons will take a different approach on offense this season.
“Last year we were fast-paced,’’ Freeman said. “This year we’ll grind it out on defense, grind it out on rebounds and pound it inside.’’
Freeman expects the Falcons will find some challenges again within the Sandhills Athletic Conference.
“Richmond Senior has a couple of good players they’re waiting on to come out from football,’’ he said. “Jack Britt has a good team and Pinecrest has the same guards.
“It will probably be the same kind of conference. I think we just need to try to feed the paint and make some more shots.’’
Pictured from top to bottom: Alvin Freeman, David Simmons
Former South View High School defensive coordinator Melvin Braswell used to say the best measure of the value of a defensive player to his team was how far he was from the player with the ball at the end of a play.
Bruce McClelland, head coach at Terry Sanford, hasn’t handed out those kind of grades for his defense, but if he did, the marks for middle linebacker Jackson Deaver would be high.
“He’s one of the guys in the biggest games who always makes plays,’’ McClelland said of Deaver.
Deaver recently earned a name for himself in the school’s record book by breaking the career record for tackles held by his former teammate, Dante Bowlding.
Through the final regular season game with Pine Forest, Deaver’s career total is 439 tackles.
He has 125 tackles for his senior campaign. That includes 12 tackles for loss and two sacks.
He’s also had a pair of interceptions, caused four fumbles and recovered two.
Deaver’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed by others. He’s a team captain for the second year in a row and has twice been named to the Patriot Athletic All-Conference football team.
This is Deaver’s fourth year in the Bulldog football program. Early in his career, when Terry Sanford was awash with good linebackers, he was briefly moved to defensive line, but he’s spent the last three seasons anchoring the defense from the middle linebacker spot.
“He’s obviously a great athlete and great player,’’ McClelland said. But that’s not the only reason Deaver has been so successful on the football field.
“The biggest thing is preparation,’’ McClelland said. “He’s second to none with any player I’ve ever coached on the defensive side.’’ McClelland puts Deaver in the same company with former Bulldog greats Mark Gilbert and Isaiah Stallings.
“This guy does a ton of film prep,’’ McClelland said. “He can tell you every position we are lining up in, what our defense is before our coaching staff does. His ability to get everybody else on defense on the same page is remarkable.’’
Playing defense is a challenge for a lot of players today because of the growing concerns about keeping head contact out of the game. There was a time in football years ago when defenders would use their helmet as a weapon and try to make contact with it when tackling opponents. The concerns that that contact leads to concussions, which some studies show is linked to the possible of permanent brain injury or disease, has caused football coaches to change the way they teach tackling to their players.
McClelland thinks it’s been a change for the good, seeing new tackling techniques focusing not just on taking the head out of the game, but on getting players to wrap an opponent up and make a more sure tackle. “The biggest thing I see is an improvement in the tackling of defenses week to week,’’ McClelland said.
Deaver, who began playing youth football at the age of eight, said all the instruction he’s received since being in high school has focused on eliminating head tackling. “Even though there have been a lot of changes to tackling, the grand scheme of things is to get the guy down on the ground,’’ Deaver said.
Deaver feels he and the rest of the Bulldog defenders have done a good job of that this year.
As this story is being written, Deaver and Terry Sanford were preparing for their state 3-A playoff opener against Wilson Fike on Thursday, Nov. 14, at John Daskal Stadium at Reid Ross Classical School. “Defensively I could not be happier with our guys,’’ Deaver said. “Our run defense is phenomenal. I think if we keep doing what we’re doing and stay focused, we should make a good run.’’
Deaver is hopeful that when his Terry Sanford career ends, he’ll be playing at the college level, but he’s not sure if it will be football or baseball.
He’s talented in both, and he’s already courting football interest from UNC-Pembroke, Wofford and Limestone. “They may put a little more weight on him and put him at middle linebacker,’’ McClelland said of Deaver’s college future.
Currently Deaver said he’s about 6-feet tall and weighs 225. “I’m not leaning toward anyone,’’ Deaver said. “I’m looking for somewhere I can call home for the next four years, somewhere I’ll feel happy and like I’m part of a family.’’
Pictured: Jackson Deaver