If the summer grind has been a collection of pop quizzes, Saturday was the final test for several high school football teams.
Wake Forest High School, the three-time defending 4AA champions, hosted nine teams (Enloe, Millbrook, New Hanover, Southern Durham, Apex Friendship, Holly Spring, Pine Forest, Cardinal Gibbons and Middle Creek) at the HSOT Jamboree, the last dress rehearsal before the regular season starts on Friday.
.Most teams started scrimmaging last weekend across the state, but this is the last film coaches have to evaluate before it starts to count.
Wake Forest, winners of 45 straight games, started the day off against Enloe, who went 8-4 last season. Score wasn’t kept on the scoreboard during the scrimmages, but the Cougars found the endzone three times — twice through the air — in the opener, showing off a shiny new quarterback in Rolesville transfer Noah Douglas. But don’t let that fool you, the true identity of Wake Forest is still ground and pound.
“Obviously you didn’t see the whole playbook,” Lucas told The N&O, “but you saw our main plays. The plays that we ran today are the plays we ran last year and the plays we have to be good at if we are going to win on Friday night.”
The Cougars open the regular season at home this Friday against Cardinal Gibbons. Lucas was asked to grade his team’s performance against the Eagles.
“What do they call it?” Lucas pounded out loud. “An incomplete.”
Enloe, who learned hours before the event started that they would be taking on the Cougars and not Clayton, must replace its top two rushers from last season. But with Jaeden Wortham returning at quarterback, coach Ken Blocker showed a new spread offense against the Cougars.
The Eagles didn’t score, but showed an ability to put the ball through the air at times. What Blocker liked most, however, was his team wasn’t intimidated by playing the state champs.
“We have some young guys that will go at it,” Blocker said. “The first thing I wanted to see was if there was going to be any fear, and there wasn’t. I think we learned a lot from our team.”
Blocker said his offensive line earned an A because they were able to run the ball. He gave his young receivers a C-minus and Wortham a B. The defense got a “solid C-plus, B-minus.”
“Our overall performance today on short notice,” Blocker said. “I would give us a solid C.”
Southern Durham went 5-6 last year, but showed flashes on Saturday that they could have one of the more explosive offenses in the area. The Spartans were led by backup quarterback Tyreek Lloyd, who showed head coach Darius Robinson he could step in and lead the offense if needed.
“Tyreek Lloyd stepped up,” Robinson said. “That’s a testament to our system, and everybody was locked in today.”
Robinson, however, said he would never give out a perfect grade, and gave his Spartans a B-plus for the day.
“It’s just going in and fixing the little things when I watch film,” Robinson said. “But we are going to be able to grow from that.”
Millbrook ran up against New Hanover, one of the best 3A teams in the state, and left coach Clarence Inscore with more questions than answers.
“We have a lot to work on,” Inscore said. “We gave up too many big plays, and offensively we didn’t hold our line like we should have.”
The Wildcats went 2-9 a year ago and return most of the offense, while replacing most of their starters on defense. Inscore didn’t hand out any passing grades following their game against New Hanover.
“It would probably be an F right now,” he said. “We have to get a lot better than that. We’re not ready yet. We have to get ready in a hurry, and it starts next week.”
Middle Creek’s Randy Ragland played a lot of new faces against Cardinal Gibbons, choosing to rest starters who were nursing “nagging injuries,” but he liked what he saw from his group overall.
“Not bad. We are a young football team this year,” Ragland said. “They looked good at times, and at times they looked young.”