War Eagle football secondary getting ready for big year

Published 9:52 am Thursday, December 17, 2020

The average score during the 2019 Davie football season was War Eagles 35, opponents 33.

As you can tell by those numbers, there was no lack of excitement during a 7-6 season that saw the War Eagles beat Reynolds, West Forsyth and Reagan, tie for second in the Central Piedmont Conference and advance to the second round of the 4A playoffs.

But – big “but” here – there’s no question the coaching staff does not want to experience another 33-point defensive scoring average anytime soon.

And when it comes to the 2021 secondary, the talent is there for the War Eagles to erase the “33” from their memory banks. A secondary with four seniors and four returning starters should provide considerable inspiration for the rest of the defense.

Caleb Bowling transferred to Davie for his junior year, arriving with lots of hype. He affirmed his potential with a team-high 130 tackles. He’s good enough to have earned an offer from Division-I Drake, and the senior strong safety has committed to the Bulldogs.

“This year he’s helping coach (Blaine) Nicholson and coach (Terrell) Wilson explain the defense to other people,” head coach Tim Devericks said. “He’s taking that leadership role. He works with kids on the side while people are getting reps and shows them the little things about being a defensive back.”

Last season Bowling wasted no time introducing himself to fans, breaking up a two-point pass to seal a season-opening 28-27 home win over Page. In Week 2, a 42-31 win at North Davidson, he picked off two passes, although one was negated by a penalty.

“He came up with multiple huge plays,” Devericks said. “He continued throughout the year making big tackles and big PBUs (pass breakups). He’s going to Drake, so it starts in the classroom for him. He takes care of business in there. He does get frustrated like any player would when he’s not doing right, but he’s willing to be coachable and work through the situation. He’s a very hard worker.”

Devericks sees many of the same attributes in senior free safety Kristian Lyons, a third-year starter who was second to Bowling with 117 tackles in 2019. He also had two INTs.

“Kristian knows every position in the secondary,” Devericks said. “He’ll do some corner, but he’s predominately our free safety. He’s got great ball skills. He’s got a couple (college) offers now and he’s looking to pick up some more. He’s another kid who works very hard in the classroom. Being a third-year starter at safety is something you don’t get very often, but when you do, you’re very excited about it.

“He wants to know the why’s of what’s going on so he can see how the whole defense fits. It’s easy for him to pick up on that kind of information.”

Justus Tatum is a mild-mannered senior who brings important qualities as a returning starter at cornerback. Last year he contributed two picks.

“He’s a rangy kid who gives you confidence that he’s going to be there to make plays,” Devericks said. “In his own quiet way, he’s a very, very big leader for the secondary. He’s not going to be very boisterous like some other kids in that group, but he’s one kid you can count on to help other people whether it’s at his group or anywhere on the team.”

The fourth senior and the fourth returning starter for the unit is Beaven Arey, a multi-tool athlete. Nicholson will employ three safeties, so look for Arey at safety/nickel back. Junior Blake Jenkins looks like he’ll be a useful piece in his first varsity season.

“Beaven is another kid who’s super athletic, a hard worker and a kid who loves football and loves contact,” Devericks said. “He can do a lot of things and make our defense multiple in what we ask them to do.

“Blake is ready for some spot play and fill in where needed. He took the time to learn the ins and outs on the JV level, and I think he’s ready to carry that to the varsity.”

The starting corner opposite Tatum will likely be sophomore Willie Purvis. Right off the bat as a JV freshman, he flashed his tremendous potential, only to wind up with an injury and in a walking boot and forced to miss several games. This kid is blazing fast.

Junior Peyton Helton is also in the secondary mix after playing JV in 2019.

“Willie has great athletic ability,” Devericks said. “He’s not afraid to come up and lay the wood either. He’s another very coachable kid; he wants to be right all the time. Last year he wasn’t afraid in practice to go against the (varsity) guys. He worked very hard last summer. I don’t think he missed hardly any workouts.”