It wasn’t that long ago that all roads to football supremacy in the Bull City went through 800 Clayton Road.
Southern Durham High School sat on the throne for a long time, highlighted by a 3AA state title in 2013 and as a runner-up in 2015.
The Spartans fell on hard times, by their standards, the last couple of seasons, going a combined 8-14 in 2017 and ‘18. But heading into the 2019 campaign, coach Darius Robinson, beams with optimism.
Obviously, it’s easy for any coach to be full of hope before the season starts, when everyone is still undefeated. But the Spartans pass the eye test, and it’s easy to see why Robinson likes this team.
At Saturday’s HSOT Jamboree, Southern Durham took on Apex Friendship, with the Spartans winning 18-6. Afterward, Robinson, entering his sixth year as head coach, confirmed that he liked what he saw from his group, especially his playmakers, the bread and butter of the Spartans’ 2019 team.
“We are blessed with a lot of talent,” Robinson said. “Our offense, we go 50-50. We can throw the ball, we can run the ball. Our goal is to get our athletes in space.”
Robinson must replace perhaps his best athlete from 2018, Taron Beauford, who finished with 895 all-purpose yards a year ago and is now at Shaw University. But the veteran coach thinks the playmakers he has coming back can cause nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.
A couple of athletes will make their way over from the defense and play both ways this year in Jacquez Warren and Cinsere Clark. Both Warren and Clark caught touchdown passes from Tyreek Lloyd during the jamboree.
Last year Warren finished with 37 tackles from his safety spot. Robinson also singled out running backs Jaylen Wright and Logan Harper.
Wright appeared in eight games as a sophomore, getting 21 carries on the varsity and one touchdown. Harper, a senior, averaged 4.1 yards per carry in 2018. Another impact player Robinson expects a big season from is 6-6, 220-pound junior Aaron Hall, who will play tight end and defensive end this season. As a sophomore, Hall finished with seven tackles for loss for the Spartans.
“I can go on and on,” Robinson said about his impact players. “But I want to give credit to our offensive line. I tell them every day we’re not going to be successful without them. They get better every day.”
The Southern Durham offensive line is a veteran group, with four seniors: Darius McDuffie, Quinton Pettiford, Quan Pettiford, Sirmoses Buchannon. Sophomore Wayne Clayton rounds out the group, which averages 265 pounds across the front, meaning they can pave the way and give protection for the playmakers.
“Those are the guys we are going to hang our hat on this year,” Robinson said. “Without them we’re not going to be successful.”
But Robinson still has plenty of skills guys on offense. Trying to get everyone enough touches is one of those good problems any coach would love to have.
“My job is to get the selfish attitude out of the room,” Robinson said. “Get the selfish attitude out of the air. Our quote this year is, ‘Let’s do it together.’ If everybody does their job, everyone is going to have a great opportunity to be successful.”
Southern Durham opens the season on Friday at 7:30 when it plays host to Cleveland.