Prep football set to kick off in new conferences

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

This is the first of two installments previewing Cumberland County high school football for the 2021 season.

The county schools have been realigned into two new conferences for the next four years.

Both are so-called combination conferences of 4-A and 3-A schools. Here is the membership of both:

United 8 – Douglas Byrd (3-A), Cape Fear (3-A), Seventy-First (3-A), Jack Britt (4-A), Gray’s Creek (4-A), Lumberton (4-A), Purnell Swett (4-A) and South View (4-A).

All-American – E.E. Smith (3-A), Harnett Central (3-A), Terry Sanford (3-A), Triton (3-A), Western Harnett (3-A), Westover (3-A), Overhills (4-A), Pine Forest (4-A).

Based on a poll of the 10 Cumberland County head coaches, here are the predicted top three teams in each conference:

United 8 – South View, Jack Britt, Seventy-First.

All-American – Pine Forest, Terry Sanford, Westover.

JACK BRITT

Coach: Brian Randolph

Spring record: 4-2

Top returning players: Luca Duarte, K, Sr.; Caleb Rodgers, OL, Sr.; Sincere Baines, RB, Jr.; Caleb Jones, WR, Sr.; Tyler Jeffress, LB, Sr.; Michael Smith, DL, Jr.; Chase Moore, LB, Jr.; Justice Gray, DL, So.; Jayden Hopkins, LB, Sr.

Promising newcomers: Darren Davis, QB, Jr.; Brian Brunson, RB, Jr.; Blake Blackburn, OL, Jr.; Bryce Bennet, LB, So.; Makani Morris, OL, Fr.; Kyle Johnson, DL, Sr.; Darcy Davis Jr., Douglas Byrd, So.; Sidney Williams, DB, Fr.

Coach’s comment: “Our success early in the season will be determined by how disciplined we are and our level of conditioning.’’

Conference outlook: “The United 8 Conference will be one of the best conferences in the state with regard to the number of teams we get into the playoffs and how deep they advance.’’

DOUGLAS BYRD

Coach: Maurice Huey

Spring record: 0-6

Top returning players: Jameion Johnson, QB, Jr.; Dontae Small, OL/DL, Jr.; Will McKoy, DB/WR.

Promising newcomers: Demarcus Carroll, DB/LB/WR, Sr.; Te’john Darden, DB/RB, Jr.; Jayln Skinner, WR, Jr.

Coach’s comment: “We are really excited about our kids. The players have been buying in to what we are trying to build. They have been working hard and have been trying to get better every day.’’

Conference outlook: “We are really excited to be a part of such a great conference. It is full of great teams and every week is going to be a dogfight.’’

CAPE FEAR

Coach: Jake Thomas

Spring record: 3-3

Top returning players: Cole Wilson, QB, Jr.; Jacary Lightsey, WR, Jr.; Ethan Wienand, TE/WR, Jr.; Chris Krings, OL, Jr.; Jamari Williams, LB, Sr.; Landon Sargent, LB, So.; Trevon Thaggard, OL/DL, Sr.; Austin Seagroves, DE, Sr.; Keyshon Washington, LB, Sr.; Skylar Horne, DL, Sr.

Promising newcomers: R.J. McDonald, WR, Sr.; Favor Murtala, RB, So.; Devonte Hill, WR, Jr.; Avery Moore, WR/DB, Jr.; Mekhal Coleman, DB/WR, So.; Robert Tatum, DB, So.

Coach’s comment: “Our strength will be our experience at the offensive skill positions, while our secondary is very young and will need to gel in a hurry.’’

Conference outlook: “Should be very competitive.”

GRAY’S CREEK

Coach: Jon Sherman

Spring record: 4-2

Top returning players: Gage Pait, T, Sr.; Gage Ratley, G, Sr.; Tyler Thompson, C/G, Sr.; Armer Mitchell, RB/Douglas Byrd, Sr.; Javon Webb, RB/DB; Dalton Williams, Nathan Toto.

Promising newcomers: Elijah Wilson, TE/DE, Jr.; Kaleb Caraway, TE/LB, Fr.; Camden Bragg, WR/DB, Jr.; Dallas Bailey, DE.

Coach’s comment: “I believe in the drive and desire of this team. Young in regard to playing experience, but hungry. Which will allow us to play at a high level.’’

Conference outlook: “I am excited about the new conference. As a coach I have a lot of experience with the majority of the teams. The closeness will create great game night atmosphere.’’

PINE FOREST

Coach: Bill Sochovka

Spring record: 4-3

Top returning players: D’Lano Belvins, DB, Sr.; Jamison Reed, DB, Jr.; Justin Eaglin, DB, Sr.; Ku’ili Badman, LB, Sr.; Aidyn Davenport, WR, Sr.; Ean Ward, WR, Sr.; Mathais Winston, DB, Jr.; Lael Anderson, RB, Jr.; Quntin Brown, DE, Sr.; Jalen McDonald, DE, Sr.; Hayward Bell, OL, Sr.; Johnathan Dominquez, OL, Jr.; Johnathan Berry, OL; KeyShun Taylor, QB, Sr.

Promising newcomers: Jordan Jones, WR, Jr.; Justin Montalvo, OL, Sr.; Roderick Roberts, LB, So.; Carter Richards, OL, Jr.; Ladaroius Miller, WR, So.; Fredrick Logan, WR, So.; Alvin Crosby, DL, Jr.; Nyzir Bostic, DB/QB, So.

Coach’s comment: “We have a lot of our skilled positions returning. We need to fill two major spots on the defensive line, and we have to solidify our running back positions. We are looking for huge improvement in our offensive line play and need to develop an offensive identity. Our defense has all but four returning from last year. We are excited about getting back to a normal football season.’’

Conference outlook: “Mixed feelings.”