Prep Preview 2014: State champion Southern looks to repeat
Reigning state 3-AA football champion Southern High School is locked & loaded and ready to defend its 2013 crown.
Despite the losses of veteran head coach Adrian Jones (now an N.C. Central aide) and graduated star wideouts Maurice Trowell (N.C. State) and Derrick Mason (N.C. Central), the Spartans are rich with talent and desire.
Jones’ defensive coordinator — Darius Robinson — now doubles as head coach and says he’ll field the same schemes and attitudes close friend Jones did.
“We have a lot of talent and experience coming back,” Robinson said. “The program hasn’t changed, except in maybe one regard. We’re putting a lot of responsibility on the kids to be coaches on the field. We’ve taught them what to do, now it’s up to them to do it.”
The undisputed leader on offense is future Wake Forest quarterback Kendall Hinton, all-everything a year ago. On defense, free safety Marvin Tillman is the main man.
Hinton does it all.
The senior completed 65 percent of his passes last season for 3,972 yards in 16 games — a 14-2 record — and 18.1 yards per completion. He proved his running abilities, too, averaging 12.5 yards per carry (1,183 yards on the year) and combined for 52 touchdowns, 39 throwing, 13 running.
Hinton’s remarkable skills make his skill position weapons downright deadly. While he lost a pair of thousand-yard plus receivers in Trowell and Mason, he’s got rushing/receiving stars returning in starting running back Jordan Brown and starting H-back William Cameron. Cameron’s the fastest player on the team, if not the area, with a 4.3-second 40 to his name and a scholarship to West Virginia awaiting. Brown, a junior, runs a 4.4 40 and holds college offers from West Virginia, Boston College, East Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest among others.
Both can run and catch and both are outstanding return options.
The uptempo spread offense will feature a rotation of potential receiver standouts in Aaron Hirsch, Jeremy Griffis (he’s got an offer from the Naval Academy), Kaleb Barfield, Jordan Mackins, Jason Henderson and Jermaine Russell.
“You’ll see all their names in the box scores,” Robinson said. “The way Kendall Hinton distributes the ball will see to that.”
Adding to the talent at running back are newcomer Myron Frazier, a transfer from Winterville South Central, and fullback/power back James Taylor, a receiving threat in his own right.
The offensive line should be outstanding, with veterans returning at four slots and defensive regular Bobby Fuller making the move to offense as a sophomore.
Vets Eric Allen (6-2, 270, left tackle), Christian Howze (5-11, 255, left guard), Omal Sullivan (5-11, 250, center) and Derek McDuffie (6-0, 270, right guard) were all in the regular rotation a year ago. Fuller (6-3, 255) is “new” at right tackle.
Sure to be in the line rotation are freshman LaDerrick Burnette (6-0, 245) and Kenneth Harvin (6-3, 265). Burnette has star potential, Robinson believes.
Not one for coachspeak, Robinson didn’t hold back when discussing his offense’s capabilities.
“We’ve been looking so good this summer,” Robinson said, smiling. “We lost some people (from last year), but we’ve developed the next person in line and they’re ready to step up.”
Looking good is something Southern’s offense does regularly. The team averaged 46 points per game in 2013, passing for 266 yards per game and rushing for 230.
Defensively, the Spartans aren’t as strong, but they’re plenty good. Despite giving up 24.2 points per game last year — and losing some top players — the roster doesn’t have any holes.
A pair of Riverside transfers — free safety Darryl Smith and defensive lineman Jawwad Evans — are expected to start from the get-go. Evans (6-3, 255) gets the call at one end, holdover Montreal Cherry (6-2, 225), Ezekiel Jennette (6-0, 215) and Roosevelt Holding (6-1, 200) also in the regular rotation.
In the tackle slots, Crushaun Reid (6-0, 215), Tyler Herbert (6-3, 260) and Howze will be the regulars.
At linebacker, Tahj Spivey, Sabir Muhammad and Holding will all see playing time in the middle, along with run-stopper Fuller when needed. On the weak side, Isaiah Ross and Richard “R.J.” Banks will handle the bulk of the work.
In the hybrid outside linebacker-safety “rover” slot, Victor Boston, Darryl Smith and Rashad Smith should all see action.
At cornerback, Griffis, Barfield, Shemar Brandon, Kyshaun Teet and Cameron are the top options. Tillman, who holds scholarship offers from Liberty and Elon, gets the ball, and Montrel Cooper is also in the mix.
With the explosive Cameron always a threat on the kick-return unit and placekicker/punter Leonardo Orozco handling the kicking, Robinson is loaded on special teams as well.
“We’re blessed,” Robinson said when referring to Orozco. “He kicked a 45-yard field goal against Hillside last year and he’s kicked a 53-yarder in practice.”
What Southern can’t control is one of the toughest schedules in the state.
In addition to Big Eight 3-A Conference challengers Orange, Northwood, Cardinal Gibbons and Chapel Hill — all playoff teams during Southern’s 7-0 Big Eight run in 2013 — Southern faces top 15 4-A programs Hillside and Laurinburg Scotland County.
Last year’s two losses came to those 4-A powers, both in the first three games. This year’s Hillside rivalry game will be played Aug. 29 at N.C. Central’s O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium as a Hillside home game.
The Spartans lost to Hillside 28-24 last year at Durham County Memorial Stadium, a “home” game for Southern.
Last year, Orange finished the regular season ranked 35th in the state (all classification), eighth in 3-A ball by MaxPreps.com. Gibbons was ranked 74th in the state, 21st in 3-A and Northwood was 155th in the state and 46th in 3-A in its first season as a 3-A member, having been reclassified from the 2-A ranks in the offseason.
PREP PREVIEWS: This is the 12th in a series of 17 previews of area and area conference football programs. The series runs daily through Friday, opening night for most area football programs.