Schedule full of obstacles
Published 9:12 am Thursday, August 20, 2015
When Davie begins conference play in late September, it should not tremble at the sound of an elephant’s approach. It will be a familiar sound.
One reason some fans’ expectations for ‘15 seem to be more modest than usual is the nonconference schedule is brutal. Coach Devore Holman piled up five demanding obstacles so the War Eagles will not see anything they haven’t seen when the Central Piedmont Conference rolls around.
With Thomasville and Lexington, a pair of 2-As, gone from the slate, Holman added 4-As Dudley and Hopewell.
“Somebody said: ‘Coach, in nonconference don’t you want to schedule some teams where you don’t beat yourself up?’” Holman said. “When we get to the CPC, we’ve got to be battle tested. I just hope injuries are a minimum when we get there.”
Davie will face nine 4-As schools, one 3-A and one 2-A. The combined 2014 record for seven of Davie’s foes – West Rowan, North Rowan, Dudley, Reagan, West Forsyth, North Davidson and Mt. Tabor – was 67-23.
“People say: ‘Man, we’ve got Dudley. We’ve got Page and West Rowan. We’ve got North Rowan and Hopewell,’” Holman said. “I look at it like this: They’ve got us. Everybody is talking about we’ve got them. They’ve got us. We’re going to be ready at the time.”
• The 4-A Page Pirates (4-8) fell off a cliff during nonconference last year, but they rose from the aches to finish second in the Metro Conference at 4-1. They suffered their first losing season in nine years, and they’re a less-than-stellar 10-14 the past two years.
Last year Davie bolted to a 29-0 lead and held on 45-40. The War Eagles lead the series 6-4.
• Scott Young built West Rowan into a powerhouse 3-A program during a 17-year tenure, but he had to step away from head coaching due to health reasons. He has been replaced by a proven winner, Joe Nixon, who guided North Rowan to 31-8 over three years.
The Falcons’ mystique dwindled with last year’s 8-5 mark and a 14-11 record the past two years. They’re eager to rediscover the lost glory. They haven’t experienced a losing season since 1998, and they’ve owned Davie since 2009, including a 48-36 decision last year.
• After enjoying a rebirth under Nixon, the 2-A North Rowan Cavaliers will try to keep it going under new coach Ben Hampton, who happens to be Nixon’s brother-in-law. Last year the Cavs went 11-3 and captured the Central Carolina Conference for the second consecutive year.
They must replace the No. 4 rusher, No. 8 passer and No. 11 receiver in Rowan County history, but Hampton appears undaunted.
“We’ve got four solid running backs who are athletic, fast and pretty strong,” he told the Salisbury Post. “We’ve got two QBs who have been to camps and they’re coming along. We lost a really big senior class, so there are holes and positions open. But our kids have that fearless factor. I have confidence in them.”
The War Eagles lost 28-13 to North in 2013, but they returned the favor in 2014, winning a 35-32 shootout.
• One of Davie’s new foes, the 4-A Dudley Panthers, has grand aspirations after winning 23 of 26 games in 2013-14. They went 15-0 in 2013 to win the 4A championship, and they were 8-3 last year when the season came to an abrupt halt due to an ineligible player. The penalty: forfeit every game, 0-11 record.
Dudley also won state championships in 2007-08, and its last losing record came in 2000.
The Greensboro News and Record wrote: “Dudley looks good. Very good. Coach Steven Davis’ team didn’t have the opportunity to defend its 2013 4A championship, but the Panthers should be a state title contender again. Dudley has size, speed and skill, led by QB Hendon Hooker, RB Connell Young, OL Isaiah Little and DB Simeon Gatling.”
The War Eagles’ last meeting with Dudley was one of the toughest pills they’ve ever swallowed, a 29-25 defeat in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. Dudley pulled victory from the jaws of defeat on a 34-yard Hail Mary on fourth-and-20 with six seconds left.
• Davie’s other new foe, the 4-A Hopewell Titans from Huntersville, don’t look imposing on the surface. They went 2-9 last year and their last winning season was 2010. But dismiss Hopewell at your own peril. It plays in the ferocious Mecka Conference with Hough (29-9 the past three years), Mallard Creek (state 4AA champs in 2013-14 and 79-7 the last six years), Vance (11-4 last year), A.L. Brown (no losing seasons since 1976), North Mecklenburg and West Charlotte.
Sept. 18 will be the first-ever meeting between Hopewell and Davie.
The CPC has grown increasingly stronger in recent years, producing one fierce battle after another and creating an unpredictable race to the top.
In 2011 Mt. Tabor and Davie shared the prize at 4-1. In 2012 North Davidson ran the table at 5-0, but Davie, Reagan, Tabor and West Forsyth all finished one game apart. In 2013 West Forsyth ran the table at 6-0, but North, Tabor and Reagan all finished 4-2. In 2014 Reagan ran the table at 6-0 to become the fifth different champion in four years.
This year’s race figures to be a total crapshoot once again.
“People don’t understand how difficult it is in the CPC,” Holman said. “There’s so much talent and so much good coaching, you have to be physically and mentally ready, and you’ve got to be able to make adjustments on the fly. There’s no gimmes. That’s why we made our nonconference schedule so tough.”
• Davie’s first CPC opponent, Reynolds, went 1-10 the past two years, extending its streak of losing seasons to five. Last year the War Eagles rolled past the Demons 49-7, and they’ve won five straight in the series, all by 25-plus points.
But Reynolds could have a different attitude in ‘15 with new coach Pat Crowley looking to reinvigorate the program. Although he has limited coaching experience, he’s got an impressive football pedigree: All-ACC offensive guard at North Carolina from 1987-89 and All-America as a senior. In 1990 he played preseason games with New England before being cut.
“I’m sure there’s a buzz in the air and he’s probably doing some good stuff,” Holman said. “They’ve always had athletes, so you know they’re going to be trying to get after some people.”
• On Oct. 2 Davie hits murderer’s row: Reagan, West Forsyth, North Davidson and Mt. Tabor.
Coach Josh McGee built Reagan from the ground up, directing the Raiders to three straight winning seasons, including last year’s 12-2 storybook ride to the most victories in their 10-year history.
After Davie won the first four meetings, the Raiders won 45-37 in 2013 and 58-31 in 2014, marking the most points Davie had allowed in 19 years, or 245 games.
• West Forsyth went 9-3 last year, making it 21-5 in two years, and the Titans should keep rolling along in ‘15. Davie has dropped three straight to West, including 35-25 last year, by a total of 18 points.
• North Davidson is on a remarkable run, going 35-6 over three years. It went 11-2 last year for its sixth straight winning season.
Davie has lost three in a row to North, surrendering 34-plus points in each. Last year it was 59-29 as Davie allowed the most points in 19 years in consecutive weeks. Running back Kennedy McKoy tortured Davie with 339 rushing yards and six TDs, including three in the final nine minutes, and he’s a senior who is bound for West Virginia.
• With 14 straight winning seasons and an 8-5 mark last year, Tabor is as consistent as a sunrise. It has defeated Davie three straight times and 13 out of 15, including 42-21 in 2013 and 45-24 in 2014.
Tabor has a big-time weapon in Divine Deablo, a 6-3, 200-pound receiver who committed to Virginia Tech. In 2013 against Davie, Deablo caught one pass for an 88-yard TD, and in last year’s meeting he had six catches for 103 yards.
Deablo attracted around 20 major offers, cut to the list to Virginia Tech, UNC and N.C. State and chose the Hokies on July 27. Last year Deablo had 700-plus receiving yards while playing through a nagging back injury.
“I am glad he is feeling fresh going into his senior year and he is back to his old self,” Tabor coach Laymarr Marshall told the Winston-Salem Journal.
• At 0-22, the past two years have been incredibly trying times for Parkland, which has eight straight losing seasons. Davie buried the Mustangs 50-0 in ‘13 and 58-6 in ‘14, but they may not be a doormat in ‘15. They have reason for hope with a bunch of starters returning.
“They’ve got guys back and coach (Martin Samek) is coaching ‘em as hard as he can coach ‘em,” Holman said. “So there’s no nights off on Friday nights.”