Hopewell (5-1) has won its last three games, scoring at least 30 points in each outing. While Titans coach Chris Rust wasn’t excited about the mistakes he saw in a lackluster 35-0 win over first-year Hough High, he admitted his team’s playing with lots of confidence.
“Our team relies on momentum,” said Rust. “Confidence is the biggest factor for high school kids to win football games. We need to continue playing at this level to make the playoffs. We can’t take a game off.”
• Leading rusher Dondre Lewis-Freeman has been battling a sore ankle, which caused him to be pulled after four carries against Hough. His backfield mate, Denzel Heath, used the additional repetitions to produce his second consecutive 100-yard game. Heath ran for 116 yards in a win over West Charlotte two weeks ago and 137 yards against Hough.
Rust was quick to point out that Hopewell doesn’t have a two-back backfield; it’s more like a three-back backfield since reserve tailback Josh Wilson had 81 yards on 10 carries against the Huskies.
“(Wilson has) showed the last few games that we have three capable backs,” Rust said.
Diminutive Viking plays big
At 5 foot 6, 165 pounds, North Meck defensive lineman Dejon Stevenson isn’t going to intimidate opposing offensive linemen. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get the job done. The compact-but-explosive Stevenson has six sacks this season, even though he gives away more than 100 pounds to most of his opponents. Against West Charlotte’s massive offensive line, Stevenson made six tackles, stopping two running plays for a loss and recording a sack. This season, Stevenson has 28 tackles.
“Dejon is a powder keg,” said North Meck defensive coordinator William Connelly. “He’s quick to the ball and doesn’t look like a defensive lineman, but he gets results. He had a sack against West Charlotte but could have had two or three more if the quarterback hadn’t gotten rid of the ball while he was in Dejon’s grasp.”
Despite his small stature, Stevenson has no problem explaining the secret to his success.
“I like it when I face bigger offensive linemen because they underestimate me,” said Stevenson. “We line up, I get the (quarterback), and they ask what happened.”
Two isn’t enough for the Huskies
Hough isn’t satisfied with two victories in its first season of play. To put that accomplishment in perspective, currently undefeated Mallard Creek, which in four seasons has become a state power, won just one game in its inaugural campaign.
And Hough’s fellow first-year programs Rocky River and Lake Norman Charter are still searching for their first wins.
But Husky coach Bobby Collins has higher expectations.
Collins hasn’t ruled out a trip to the playoffs because he knows at least one upstart program that’s done it. Before Hough, Collins was the defensive coordinator at Providence Day, where he coached under Bruce Hardin, who led Marvin Ridge to the 2007 playoffs with four wins in its first season.
“(Working with Hardin) was the best thing that ever happened to me coachingwise,” said Collins. “He was at West Point under NFL coach Bobby Ross from the Chargers. Everything Coach Ross did in the NFL, Coach Hardin brought to high school football. We talked football for eight hours a day.”
• The Huskies are halfway through back-to-back games against Lake Norman area schools Hopewell and North Mecklenburg. Many of Hough’s athletes played for the Titan and Viking JV squads in recent years. In this week’s game, some players will compete against family members – as is the case for brothers Christian and Latham York, who play for Hough and North Meck, respectively.
Needless to say, the Huskies are eager to prove themselves against their former classmates. Instead of taking the obvious and often-boring approach of focusing on “one-game at a time,” Collins is taking another route to prepare for each game.
“We coach the same way against Hopewell and North Meck that we do for other teams, but we will use the fuel from these games to feed the fire,” said Collins. “It doesn’t get any better than Christian and Latham going at it. If I could have played against my older brother, the referee’s wouldn’t have had enough flags in their pocket to ref the game.”
SouthLake controls playoff destiny
With four games remaining on its 2010 schedule, the SouthLake Christian Eagles (5-2, 2-1 in the Carolina Piedmont Football Conference) could be a win away from one of the eight spots for the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II playoffs. SouthLake coach Rich Landis said it’s not so much that a victory at winless Arden Christ School would seal the postseason bid; a loss, he noted, would damage his team’s playoff resume. The Greenies have been outscored 241-97 this season.
“I think if we beat Christ School, we are in the playoffs,” said Landis. “If not, there’s a measure of doubt because we lost to a winless team. We really have to win against Christ School and then focus on our last three games (against Concord First Assembly, Fayetteville Village Christian and Forsyth Country Day) to determine playoff seeding.”
• Starting running back Ashton Stroud lasted just three plays in a 23-17 victory over Asheville School last week. Stroud was battling a sprained ankle and is listed as day-to-day this week. Stroud is the Eagles’ second-leading rusher with 320 yards and five touchdowns on 77 carries. He was replaced in the lineup by wide receiver Revonn Hassell, who ran nine times for 44 yards and a score against Asheville School.