Prep Preview 2014: Sharp return fuels Carrboro hopes
Play-making running sensation Trai Sharp is back from an injury-shortened 2013 season, and so is Carrboro’s fire for a shot at the state 2A football championship that eluded the Jaguars in 2012.
During that near-miss 2012 season when Carrboro lost a 30-27 squeaker to South Iredell in the state championship final, the 5-10, 190-pound Sharp rushed for 2,291 yards and 33 touchdowns. He also gained 482 receiving yards with four touchdowns. On special teams, Sharp posted 379 return yards, and scored once.
So Sharp’s return from a meniscus tear for his senior season is huge for first-year head coach Melvin Griffin and a Carrboro team that fell to 1-4 in the Mid-State 2-A Conference and 4-7 overall last year.
Before this season Griffin was assistant coach and defensive coordinator under head coach Jason Tudryn, the only head football coach Carrboro had ever had. Tudryn left to join Larry Fedora’s staff at UNC Chapel Hill as director of high school relations.
“I’m excited. I’ve been here since the program started, and I feel confident I’m ready to take them to the next level. I’m familiar with the kids, and the kids are excited to get a new head coach, so the kids have a great attitude,” Griffin said. “This is a real close group. There’s a family atmosphere on the team on and off the field.”
Other anchors in the lineup that Griffin will rely on are returning all-conference senior players Rowe Mellott, a 6-2, 185-pound safety, and Sam Blobe, a 6-1, 200-pound linebacker. But more important, he said, is putting the ghost of the 2012 championship loss behind them.
“Last year we didn’t really bury the loss in the state championship — put the 2012 season behind us,” Griffin said.
“Even before and after the injuries hit the goal was always getting back to the state championship game, and the kids kind of lost focus on one game at a time,” Griffin said. “And then when the injuries set in it was tough to recover.”
This season a new vibe is taking root, a restored confidence. And while Griffin believes Reidsville is the preseason favorite to win the Mid-State 2-A, he expects Carrboro to compete for the crown.
Reidsville won the conference last year with a strong junior class, and made it to the state semifinals before being dumped by eventual state champion Shelby, 49-3. Griffin said Reidsville returns a strong linebacker corps, secondary, offensive line and running back.
“Even though we’re young … people do have some game experience, so now we’ve just got to make sure they continue to learn the system,” Griffin said. “It’s nice to have Trai Sharp back, but we want to be a well-rounded team offensively and defensively.”
Carrboro’s injury-riddled lineup last year allowed a sizeable number of freshmen and sophomore players to get in significant game time to earn letters, which will be helpful because the team lost its largest senior class since the school opened in 2007 to graduation in June.
But junior Ted Bilden, a 6-1, 235-pound center, is the only returning starter on the offensive line.
“We’re going to be very inexperienced on the offensive line,” Griffin acknowledged. “We have a couple sophomores moving up from the jayvee team, and then we also have two seniors, Coleman and Kalil Davis, twin brothers who helped us on the defensive line last year will help us on the offensive line this year.”
Adding to the concern of a rebuilt line is an unsettled quarterback situation in the wake of Jonah Mendys graduating. Mellott is battling fellow senior Adam Bussian for the quarterback slot.
“Rowe has been a defensive player his first three years. He’s going to step over and be part of the quarterback competition,” Griffin said.
“And Adam Bussian is a kid who transferred from East [Chapel Hill] last year. He played receiver. He’ll be part of the quarterback competition. He was the backup last year,” Griffin said.
Bussian’s father, John Bussian, was a quarterback at Duke in the 1970s.
“Our receivers are probably right now our top position group. And obviously with Trai Sharp back we’re going to try to work that together to help bring along the quarterback. I think we’ll be 50-50. We’re not going to be pass heavy or run heavy,” Griffin said.
The Jaguars will continue to use a spread offense.
“We’re going to run the ball first to establish our run game to set up the passing game,” Griffin said.
“On defense we’ll be a multiple 4-3 look,” and should have a formidable group of linebackers anchoring that side of the ball, Griffin said.
On offense, four players are vying for three starting receiver positions, including Darius Glover, Jackson Overbeck, Theodore Winans and Greyson Magee. In addition to Sharp, backs include Sam Blobe and Magee.
On the offensive line, Jordan Riggsbee and Keegan Schmoock are the starting tackles, Ted Bilden gets the nod at center and Coleman Davis, Kalil Davis and John Peretin are in the mix at guard.
On defense, the corners are Ian Carlisle and Magee. At safety, Tabian Sales is one starter and the other will come from either Thad Carey or Mellott. Blobe will start at linebacker and others in the mix at the otehr two slots are Matt Junker, Caleb Clouatre, Marcus Smith and Justin Smith.
Ends are Bilden. Nate Oquaye, Schmoock and Peretin. Coleman and Kalil Davis and Riggsbee are in the mix at tackle.
PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: This is the fourth in a series of 17 preseason previews of area football teams. The series runs daily through Friday, Aug. 22, opening day for most area football programs.