Opinion: A brighter 2014 could await local football programs
The 2013 football season came to an abrupt end for all three of our local schools in the first round of the NCHSAA state playoffs. While this year may be lost, there is hope for a brighter 2014 for all three.
On a similar path as it took last season all the way to the third round of the playoffs, Thomasville never could put enough pieces together to make a series run. A rough nonconference slate left the Bulldogs with a misleading record. When Central Carolina Conference play arrived, THS began to accumulate wins until running into league champion North Rowan. Finishing second, they earned themselves a first round home game, but Lincolnton did just enough to finish off the Thomasville season with a 14-7 victory. A losing record of 5-7 is what they were left with, but there is plenty of reason to believe the next couple of years could see vast improvement from the Chair City's beloved Bulldogs.
Thomasville was young, really young. And a lot of that youth played significant minutes. The one who got noticed most would have to be defensive back Ja'hare Taylor Thomas. A super frosh that hit hard and had nearly double digits in interceptions, Thomas could potentially move to a linebacker slot if he can add to his 5-foot-8, 145-pound frame.
There were several sophomores that will be key cogs in the future for Thomasville. Jalen Jenkins played quarterback much of the season and passed for nearly 700 yards. Keith Clemmons and Evan Makupson are studs on the wrestling mats and showed strength on defense, and Tyquan Anderson along with Kailon Bratton gave promising efforts in the secondary. In the offensive backfield, D.J. Spann emerged as a leading tailback and racked up 585 rushing yards.
With several good juniors like star linebacker Akeem Davis being seniors next season, there is plenty of reason to believe the Bulldogs will be in the hunt for a CCC crown in 2014.
Enjoying its best season record-wise since 1969, East Davidson emerged as one of the top stories in Davidson County this season. Tying a school record with nine wins, the Golden Eagles brought together the community for a special year. No longer was the East band the only highlight of the night. Fans showed up for the football as well.
More than 20 seniors were on the roster and East played like a veteran team under first-year head coach Vance Hanner. They finished third in the CCC and a win in the playoffs would have been the icing on the cake. It was not meant to be, but there is a fresh and exciting vibe circling the program.
Losing that many seniors will be tough, especially since the junior varsity finished 4-5. But Hanner could easily turn that around with a little time in the offseason. East will have some key pieces coming back.
Quarterback Austin Wallace continues to improve and will be a senior leader in 2014. So will linebacker Toby Craven, who gained a lot of knowledge playing alongside Nathan Campbell.
Several good lineman will be back. Logan Goad will be a junior and a handful for opponents with time in the offseason for strength and conditioning. David Lomax Zach Payne and Damian Williams will all be senior leaders.
Ledford had a whirlwind season that had obstacles around every corner. They dealt with two different injuries to quarterback Bubba White, lost top tailback George Melvin, and were forced to forfeit a win over rival East Davidson. Through it all, the Panthers somehow kept it together to finish second in the Mid-Piedmont Conference and post an overall record of 7-5.
When injuries in the offensive backfield continued to accumulate, junior tailback Dalton Harris stepped up. He turned in massive performances late in the year and will be back for a senior curtain call. With a large number of seniors expected to hit the field, the Panthers could be tough to beat if they can shake the injury bug.
For now we say goodbye to the 2013 season, and look forward to what the future could hold for all three schools.