Thomasville Preview: Mattera hoping to build on program's successful history
A new era is about to begin in the Chair City at Thomasville High School.
For the first time since 1973, there will be a coach not named Brown roaming the sidelines as the head man of the Bulldogs. Wes Mattera, who was announced as football coach in February, will lead Thomasville onto the field Friday evening at Cushwa Stadium.
“February seems like a long time ago but it has gone by fast,” said Mattera, who spent the last four years at Edenton Holmes where he compiled a record of 34-14. “I am really excited to get our guys on the field in a game situation. It has been a fun six months so far.”
While fun, it has also been busy for Mattera and his players. The team hit the weight room hard once he arrived on campus, and have spent numerous hours thumbing through playbook pages to get acquainted with new plays and schemes. The team has made steady progress over the last few months leading up to Friday’s date with North Davidson.
“They've been asked to do a lot this summer and I have been pleased with their attitude and commitment,” Mattera said. “We've gotten a lot better through each scrimmage. We are still shuffling a few pieces trying to get the right people in the right spots.”
Last season was a tough one for a Thomasville unit that went 5-7. The team was young and took some beatings during a difficult nonconference slate, but the trials faced in the early portion of the schedule helped them prepare for league play. THS went 4-1 in the Central Carolina Conference, finishing second behind North Rowan. With more experience, the Bulldogs could potentially give teams in the first couple of months trouble.
At THS, success often begins on the defensive side of the ball. Through the years, the program has taken pride in its play on defense. In 2013, the Bulldogs gave up an average of 19 points a night. That is a number they would like to decrease in 2014.
The defense will be led by senior linebacker Akeem Davis. Verbally committing to Appalachian State recently, the two-time, all-conference performer can fly to the football and deliver jarring hits. He was added to the offensive backfield at times a year ago, and will likely see a few opportunities toting the ball again. Joining him at the other linebacker positions will be J.J. Hinson (senior), Kyree Colson (junior) and Kaillon Bratton (junior). Josh Scott (junior) could also see time there.
On the defensive line, the Bulldogs have two really good ends in senior Quidell Hill and junior Evan Makupson. Junior John Camberon will see time as well. In the middle will be Keith Clemons (junior), Anthony Bell (junior), Q. Baxter (senior), Rae Taylor (junior) and Jaciuya Rainey (junior).
In the secondary the Bulldogs feature a pair of all-conference defensive backs in junior Tyquan Anderson and sophomore Jahare Taylor-Thomas. Others that will see time in the secondary include Hiygee Martin (senior), Bobby Anderson (senior), Jalen Jenkins (junior) and D.J. Spann (junior).
“Traditionally Thomasville's defense has been very strong,” said Mattera. “That is something we've been preaching to our guys that they have a tradition to uphold. They should be privileged to be considered to play defense.”
Offensively, the backfield will see a completely new look. Sophomore Shai Wise gets the nod as the starting quarterback with Jenkins likely to see some time there as well.
At tailback, Scott has worked his way into a starting spot and is tough to bring down. He will share carrying duties with Taylor-Thomas and Davis. Clearing the way at fullback will be a trio of Clemons, Colson and Hinson.
“We did not really have a guy returning with a whole lot of experience,” Mattera said. “That is why we have been rotating a lot of guys in. Through the years I have never been a guy that believes in one tailback getting the majority of carries. I want to rotate a lot of guys in all season long to keep them fresh. They all bring something different to the table.”
Running a spread offense, Thomasville will not be shy in moving down the field through the air. Christian Young will be a big target in the passing game after his all-conference junior season. Spann will see time at wideout and can cause a lot of problems with his speed in the open field. Senior's Jimmie Cunningham, Brett Hokenson and Chantez Whitaker will get touches as well.
The offensive line was a work in progress throughout last year. They will need to work more as a unit to allow big-play opportunities for the skill positions.
Starting at left tackle will be Jelaney McKnight (junior) with Fred Reamous (senior) at right tackle. Ty Love-Ivory (senior) will be the left guard with Reggie Rogers (senior) and Austin Agee (junior) rotating at right guard. Terrence DeWalt (senior) and Tyson Hagens (junior) will share time at center. Makupson is the tight end.
In the CCC, defending champion North Rowan appears to be the favorite to repeat. The Cavaliers made it to the third round of the playoffs before losing to Shelby.
“In some polls they are ranked No. 1 and in some No. 2 in the state,” said Mattera. “Whatever league you are in, the conference champion from the previous year is the measuring stick and that is who you are aiming to beat. Obviously our goal is to go into that third week conference game with a chance to play for a title against them. With that being said, the league is wide open because I think both Salisbury and Lexington will be improved. And East Davidson and West Davidson can play with anybody on a given Friday night.”
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.