As scrimmages near, Raiders turn focus to full contact

Aug. 09, 2014 @ 08:49 PM

Southern Vance players were so excited to start fall practice it caught head coach Lewis Young a little off guard.

The Raiders lost 13 starters from last season’s team that was eliminated in the second round of the 2-A state playoffs, but that hasn’t lowered the new-look squad’s enthusiasm.

“The guys were just so energetic when they came in,” said Young. “They came in prepared. They’ve been working hard, very disciplined this year. The work ethic is really good. We’ve had a good practice almost every day.”

One of Southern’s defensive leaders is Maurice Howard, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound lineman receiving interest from N.C. State and N.C. Central among other schools.

Howard is already fired up for scrimmages at Hertford County on Thursday, Aug. 14 and Southern’s annual Pigskin Jamboree on Saturday, Aug. 16 before the regular season kicks off Friday, Aug. 22 at Elizabeth City Northeastern.

“Right now I’m feeling excited because I’m ready for the jamboree,” said Howard. “Not only that, everybody who came out here on the first day of practice was ready. That’s the stuff I like to see.”

Southern has around 50 in practice with at least five more expected to join. The Raiders expect a senior class of 15, the same as last season.

Beginning Thursday, high school football players were allowed full contact in accordance with N.C. High School Athletic Association guidelines.

Previously, technique and conditioning had been the emphasis in Raiders camp — especially with so many inexperienced players on the team this season.

“Now we can be more aggressive,” said Young. “We can go man-on-man a lot. That gives us a chance to really separate the guys as far as physical strengths.”

Nine of the 13 starters lost were on the offensive side including quarterback Ty-Traveon Roberts, running back Qualik Shearin and wide receiver Shawn Henderson — each a starter with Roberts’ and Henderson’s absences also leaving holes in the secondary.

“We’re rebuilding on offense and waiting for some of the younger guys to grow up,” said Young.

For more on Southern’s maturation process — as well as in-depth previews of Northern Vance, J.F. Webb and Warren County — check out The Dispatch Fall Sports Preview, in print on Aug. 22.

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.