• 41°

Football team loaded at receiver

Davie’s football team averaged 35.1 points in 2019 and most of the primary weapons are set to return when the 2021 season kicks off in February.

Quarterback Nate Hampton is coming off a record-setting season. Tate Carney amassed 1,998 rushing/receiving yards. Jack Reynolds put up a record-setting 15 receptions against a team (West Forsyth) that lost one regular-season game. The top three receivers and four of the top five are back.

In short, they’re going to be a nightmare for opposing defenses.

But before we get to the boatload of dangerous targets for the 6-foot-6 QB, let’s take a look at the receiver coach who has been on the staff since 2003. Chris Callison is beginning his 18th year.

Callison is a 1988 Davie grad who played receiver during his high school days. He was actually more of a blocker in coach Mike Carter’s wishbone. As a junior, Callison had two catches; Rodney Latham threw 25 of Davie’s 50 pass attempts in 10 games. Callison also had two catches as a senior in 1987, when J.C. Hendrix attempted 45 of Davie’s 69 passes in 10 games.

Callison is a cerebral type who is not inclined to leave any “i” undotted. Head coach Tim Devericks is more than grateful to have someone so loyal and so knowledgable.

“Sometimes you get caught up in the Xs and Os and you might miss the finer things,” Devericks said. “Cac does a great job of slowing everybody down. He’ll say: ‘All of this doesn’t matter if we’re not lined up right.’ It’s the details when you’re rushing through something or you want to get something installed so quickly. Cac does a great job of highlighting those points. I think he’s an outstanding teacher at Ellis and he really teaches these receivers the finer points. It all starts with a great stance, it starts with good route-running, and he really devotes a lot of time to that. He’s been in that position for a long time and been a great asset.”

•••

Reynolds, Carney and Za’Haree Maddox combined for 182 of Hampton’s 263 completions in 2019. Reynolds is a huge star even though he looks like the guy you’d volunteer to guard in a 7-on-7 contest. He has savvy and hands of glue. He’ll stop on a dime, juke and make the defender look foolish.

“He’s an ultimate competitor,” Devericks said. “If you come up to jam him, he’s going to compete to run a great route. He’s going to compete to do a great release move. We don’t have to say anything to Jack about drops because he’s so hard on himself. Even if it’s a high ball or bad ball, he expects himself to catch every ball that’s thrown his way. We joke with him: ‘Jack, it’s OK. Don’t go home and run routes all night or call Chris (Reynolds, his brother and the QB at Charlotte) to come home and throw to you because you dropped one out of the 87 balls you got today.’ That’s just how competitive he is.”

Carney is a Swiss Army knife. In one of the most unique seasons ever, he rushed for 1,257 yards, made 58 catches for 741 yards and scored 26 touchdowns – as a sophomore, no less. He’s never seen a defender he didn’t want to run over. What’s more, he has a desire to improve.

“He’s not satisfied, always looking to raise the bar for himself and everyone around him,” Devericks said. “He’s really improved in his speed category, going to Will Bradley (Sports Performance) and working on his running form to improve some combine numbers and things of that nature. He’s a tremendous leader on and off the field in the way he carries himself. Man, like I said about Jack, what an ultimate competitor. When there’s something on the line, Tate is ready to go.”

Despite missing his entire freshman year with a knee injury, Maddox (46 catches for 521 yards) showed an abundance of talent as a sophomore.

“He made plays,” Devericks said. “He caught out-routes and turned them into 15. Those things kind of go unnoticed, but those are huge in the course of a drive.”

There are compelling pieces behind the three proven weapons. Zymere Hudson had some flash moments as a sophomore, making 22 catches and leading the group with a 15.7 average per catch. The junior has been turning heads in the much-longer-than-normal offseason.

“I think he’s grown about two inches and he looks faster,” Devericks said. “In our study of film from last year, Zymere would make 20-yard catches. Now let’s make a move after you’ve caught it and turn those 20-yard gains into touchdowns. In the 7-on-7 league, out of the nine or 10 contests we had, Zymere might have dropped one ball. I mean, he was really impressive.”

Offensive coordinator Matt Gould added: “There were one or two (7-on-7) games where he just took over. You could tell they were focussed on Jack and Za’Haree and they forgot about Zymere and he would have four or five catches on the same drive. So we really think he could have a breakout year for us.”

Look for Brodie Smith to be a useful piece in February/March. He was a solid JV freshman last year, and like Carney, he can play running back and receiver.

“Brodie is going to get the ball in different spots,” Gould said. “He’s learned three or four positions already so he can spell guys when we need somebody at different spots.”

Chase Robertson could be factor. As a junior, he waited in the shadows. His number was called early in the season against Kannapolis. How did that turn out? He made a sensational catch in the end zone for a 27-yard score.

Gould: “I definitely think Chase is going to help us.”

Devericks: “Chase is sneaky fast and can make a big catch on you. (On the TD against Kannapolis), I remember saying in the headset: ‘He caught that?’ He was blanketed and somehow came down with it. It reemphasizes to everybody on the team: Be ready. Your part can make a big difference in a game.”

Preston Young is coming up from JV. He burned West Forsyth as a freshman and has gained confidence in the offseason.

“He’s grown a lot,” Gould said. “He made some big catches. In the summer we were watching the West Forsyth JV game. The same route was open over and over and it was Preston every time. He had three or four catches over the middle in that one game.”

Keep an eye on Cooper Smith, a junior playing football at Davie for the first time.

Gould: “He hasn’t played but he looks natural at it. He looks like a natural underneath receiver who should be able to help us out. I think he’s friends with (offensive lineman) Spencer Williams and maybe Spencer got him to come out. He seems to be enjoying it and he’s catching on.”

Devericks: “He started in the summer. He wanted to give it a shot, and I don’t think he’s missed more than one or two days. He’s been a pleasant surprise. He’ll make a 12-yard curl catch and will make a big play for us somewhere down the line.”

There are two more first-year players at receiver – juniors Max Junker and Owen Byers.

Devericks: “I’m looking forward to seeing what Max and Preston can offer to the team.”

Gould: “Owen looks pretty good out there. He’s smaller but he seems to be pretty tough. He’s definitely competitive. He gets all those guys going, so it’s been fun having him out there.”