Skill guys could make Davie football sneaky good
Published 9:34 am Thursday, August 22, 2019
The 2018 Davie football season was something dark and unrecognizable. The War Eagles went 3-8 overall and 0-5 in the Central Piedmont 4-A Conference. They were 2-9 on the field, the third win being a forfeit from Page.
There haven’t been many two- or three-win seasons in Davie’s 63-year history. The others: 3-5-2 in the inaugural season of 1956, 2-7-1 in 1957, 2-7-1 in 1958, 3-7 in 1963, 1-7-2 in 1969, 3-7 in 1981, 3-7 in 1985, 3-7 in 1988, 3-7 in 1990 and 3-7 in 1991.
The 11th such season depressed the heck out of everyone in DC. The six-game losing streak at the end was the longest in 37 years. The War Eagles went winless in conference play for the first time ever. They suffered eight losses for the first time ever. The wins were the fewest in 27 years. They missed the playoffs for just the sixth time in 23 years.
It was a bizarre downward spiral because Davie struck first in nine games and held a lead in 10 games. The War Eagles led Page 21-6 and lost 35-28. After a breathtaking 21-14 win over North Davidson, they led Mooresville 13-0 two minutes in and lost 52-32. They led West Rowan 11-0 and lost 38-31. Davie outlasted Carson 40-33, but it was not an inspiring victory. The Cougars went 3-8, dropped the last four games and missed the playoffs. Luckily for Davie, Carson committed all three of the game’s turnovers and ran out of time. The War Eagles led Kannapolis 7-0 and lost 56-27. They led Reynolds 3-0 and lost 28-10. They led West Forsyth 7-0 and lost 27-13. They led Reagan 14-7 and lost 41-21. They led East Forsyth 7-0 and lost 49-14.
The only game in which Davie did not hold a lead was a 27-25 loss to Glenn. Nate Hampton’s 74-yard pass to Jack Reynolds pulled Davie within two with 4:41 left. Glenn responded with a 10-play drive, three first downs and melted the rest of the clock.
Never in a hundred years could we have imagined Davie taking a lead in 10 games and losing eight of them.
The defense struggled mightily. Davie gave up 58 touchdowns and 400 points, a 36.3 average that set a dubious record. (The old mark for defensive futility was 34.1 in 2015.) You couldn’t fault the defense for opposing TDs on three interception returns, two kickoff returns and a fumble return, but the defense was to blame for 28 TD passes, another dubious record. (The most TD passes allowed between 1996-2017 was 22 in 2015.) Davie allowed 13 TDs of 51-plus yards, including six passing plays, five running plays and two kickoff returns. By contrast, Davie scored on five such plays: Josh Robinson’s 80-yard run and Hampton passes of 70 yards to Adrian Cranfill, 60 to Evan Little, 68 to Reynolds and 74 to Reynolds.
If the 2019 War Eagles need more incentive for a turnaround, five of the past six seasons have seen discontent, including 4-7 in 2013, 6-6 in 2014, 5-7 in 2015 and 5-7 in 2017. The 2016 season was seashells and balloons as Davie went 12-2, ran the CPC table and reached the 4A quarterfinals. But Davie sputtered in ‘17 and crashed in ‘18.
But that’s in the past. It’s time for a new season. Davie did not sacrifice a chicken in the offseason. Fourth-year head coach Tim Devericks and new defensive coordinator Blaine Nicholson – who replaced David Hunt, who left to join DeVore Holman at Lexington – reshaped the defense and created a motto: “Effort Based Defense.”
Nicholson said: “We’re running a little bit different defense this year. We’ve got fewer linebackers than we’ve had in the past, and we’re speeding up the linebackers. We’re looking to play in the passing game a lot better but still being good run defenders. We’re putting more DBs on the field, but the DBs can fit up on the run just fine.”
Devericks: “Our defensive focus is effort-based defense. We want to preach effort and effort and effort. That’s what you can control. You can control your effort; it’s our job as coaches to get you in the right place.”
This could be a sneaky team to follow starting Friday night at War Eagle Stadium. How can you not be pumped about a bevy of skill guys on offense and a host of athletes in the secondary? Davie is motivated by last year’s stunning fall, and a hungry team with lots of speed and athleticism is a dangerous one.
Devericks: “We’re not going to forget about (2018). You use that experience to grow. Something’s going to happen to you in your life when you get knocked down. How are you going to respond? That’s been the message we’ve had with the kids. No one expects anything from you. You’ve got to go out there and earn it. Offensively, we’ve really worked on consistency. At times last year we had opportunities. Maybe inexperience led to not executing at the right times. We have talented kids, but it’s got to be done collectively. Not a quarterback or a running back or a receiver can do all that. It’s got to be the whole group working. So we’ve worked on more efficiency in the offseason. We’re still going to be a spread team. But we’re looking at more packages to get Josh Robinson and Tate Carney on the field at the same time and utilize their athletic abilities to help Nate out, give him more targets and try not to make it easy for the other CPC teams to know who’s in the game.”
Nicholson: “We feel like we have a pretty good chance of being better than we were last year on defense and help the offense. Our philosophies have changed. Our mindset now is we want to be able to win the game because of our defense, and you can’t do that if you’re asking the same 11 guys to play all the time. We don’t have the expectations (from the outside) that we’ve had in the past. We’re coming off a really tough year. But I undoubtedly think we’re going to be better than we were last year on offense. Coach (Matt) Gould knows his Xs and Os. He knows what didn’t work well last year and what did.”
Said offensive coordinator Gould: “I think we’re in a good spot with other teams probably underestimating us. I think we’ve got the talent to compete with anybody we play. Last year we had the lead in every game but one, and then we weren’t able to finish. So a big point of emphasis is finishing.”
Yep, the War Eagles could be a dark horse. If they reverse the spiral and achieve a winning season, it would be no small thing. The schedule is a gauntlet. Last year Page went 9-2 and reached the second round of the playoffs; North Davidson (13-3) earned 2AA runner-up; Mooresville (9-4) reached the second round; West Rowan and Kannapolis went 6-6; vastly improved Reynolds went 5-7; West Forsyth went 8-4; Glenn (6-7) reached the second round; resurgent Reagan (8-5) reached the second round; and East Forsyth (15-0) won the whole shebang in 4A.
Carson was the only ‘18 opponent that did not qualify for the postseason, and Carson has been replaced on the ‘19 schedule by 3-A South Iredell, which has enjoyed eight winning seasons in nine years, the exception a 6-6 mark in 2014.
Davie and S. Iredell haven’t met since 2002. The Vikings have been exceedingly successful under coach Scott Miller, who is 90-30 since 2010, including the 2AA title in 2012. Their overall record in ‘18 was nothing special (7-6), but they went 4-1 in the North Piedmont Conference to share the crown with Statesville.
Davie and Page will meet in week one – here Friday at 7:30 p.m. – for the ninth straight year. It has been a crazy series. The scores since 2012: 31-14 Davie, 32-22 Page, 45-40 Davie, 53-22 Page, 39-29 Davie, 20-14 Page in overtime and 35-28 Page.
Last year’s clash was a doozy. Page fumbled the opening kickoff, Zach Smith recovered and Davie drove 26 yards for a touchdown. Davie scored on a reverse pass from Ben Crenshaw (his only pass attempt of the year) to Reynolds. Kristian Lyons blocked a punt and Matthew Hill recovered in the end zone to provide a 21-6 lead. The Pirates responded with 22 unanswered points for a 28-21 lead, and they were about to put it away when they lined up for a 32-yard field goal. Gage Recktenwald blocked the kick, Hill scooped it and pitched back to Lyons, who dashed 59 yards to tie it at 28-28 with 6:20 to go. Page, though, drove 65 yards and scored at 2:02 to win by seven.
The Pirates went 9-3 on the field (they were officially 6-6 with forfeits to Davie, Northern Guilford and Dudley due to academically ineligible players). They are 46-11 on the field since 2015, and they are extremely talented again in ‘19.
Nicholson: “We’re going to see how good we are real quick. It’s not a warm-up game because those guys are going to be great this year. We just hope we can put our best foot forward when we get out there, because if we do, it’s going to be another exciting ballgame.”
Devericks: “They return their quarterback/running back/do-everything guy. So that’s going to be a tough task for our defense, trying to contain him and limit his explosive plays. He really broke our back with a few runs last year. They have two (college prospects) at cornerback. You know they’re going to be well coached and also have a stable full of athletes on both sides of the ball.”
And then: “It’s time for us to finish one and come out on top.”
Davie leads the series 8-6.
Davie will have new No. 1s at kicker and punter. After watching Skyler Schoppe convert 10 of 13 field goals in 2017-18, it’s time for junior Guillermo “Willie” Moure to take over. As a two-year backup, Moure went 8 of 10 on extra points and 0 for 1 on FGs.
Devericks: “I’m looking for big things in the kicking game from Willie this year.”
Peyton Hampton handled Davie’s 61 punts in ‘18, but he’s now a freshman at Army. The likely punter will be Carney.
Devericks: “Punting is a work in progress. We’re working with a few guys. If we had to go tomorrow (Aug. 5), it would be Tate, but I’m not sure what might happen the next two weeks.”
It’s a shame senior Samuel Hendrix’s balky shoulder ended his career prematurely. For he was going to be a solid varsity player for three years. He started at cornerback as a sophomore. He moved to outside linebacker as a junior. He injured the shoulder in week two’s win over N. Davidson, but it popped back in and he went to work the next week at Mooresville. He reinjured it and missed the last eight games.
He decided it wouldn’t be wise to keep playing football; now he’s a golfer only. Even though he’ll never put on the helmet again, he’s as engaged with the program as possible. That’s how unselfish and devoted to his teammates that Hendrix is.
Devericks: “Sam is a tremendous young man. Even though he knows he’s not going to be able to physically participate, he has not missed a day. He’s been at every practice. He went to team camp with us. We’ve given Sam a lot of responsibilities as far as signaling and relaying calls to coaches so they can signal things in. He’s been a tremendous asset. It was a very mature decision by him. I don’t know of many 17- or 18-year-old kids that would say I’m not going to play but would still come at 8 in the morning three days a week during their summertime. Sam hasn’t missed one time. We call him the GA (graduate assistant).”