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BOILING SPRING LAKES—They say football is won in the summer in the weight room, and if that is the case, the South Brunswick High School football team, with 65 or so players who showed up this summer, should have a great year.
These dedicated Cougars also have a lot of respect for their new head coach, Roman Kelley.
“It is a wonderful opportunity to come in and follow a guy like coach Gordon Walters, who has established a well-respected program and work ethic, which all of the players are following,” Kelley said.
“He has made the transition easy, and having coached here last year I know all of the kids. The returning staff is great, all the players are well mannered. Fan support and the administration is fantastic.”
Coach also had great praise for wife Sarah, about whom he said, “I definitely married up, that’s for sure.”
Oct. 1 they are expecting a running back or linebacker, or maybe even a quarterback, as coach was when he played for Appalachian State University, an NCAA Division 1-AA school.
South went to the third round of the playoffs last year, and all feel they have unfinished business this season.
“It is a tougher schedule this year, but the kids welcome the challenge,” Kelley said.
Chris Roehner, South’s athletics director, is confident Kelley can make a smooth transition.
“We believe he will continue on with the success of our football program,” he said.
New defensive coordinator David Reed, who has 21 years of experience coaching, also is excited about the upcoming season. He was associated with Ledford High School.
Led by senior Thomas Randolph (5-9, 235), who has a vertical jump of 28 inches, the defensive line also has senior Zac Kelly (5-10, 243) and juniors Terrell Stanley (6-3, 247), Tre’ Parker (6-0, 208) and Collin Bruton (6-0, 225).
Tony Thomas, the running-backs coach, will have the three returning: Rashen Bellamy, Quan Ray and Kenneth White. Ray ran a 4.43 and White a 4.49 for the 40 at the combines in Raleigh this year.
“If we fail, it is our fault, not the kids,” Thomas said. “Everything is in place. They have been here for four years and worked their tails off in the weight room.”
The punting game is undecided, but it appears the kicking will be handled by junior Andrew Bates, Thomas said.
“We lost some good players who have gone on to college,” said Andrew Rusk, the wide receivers and defensive backs coach, “but we feel we have replaced them. Ray and White will go both ways, and Jon Marvin will see some action at safety. Cameron Scott, a junior who missed most of last year, will get to play both wide receiver and corner, and will play a big role.”
Nathaniel Harrison and B.J. Herring, both seniors, will also be in the mix at wide receiver and defensive back, combined with some promising juniors.
Joshua Rusk, the offensive line coach, said he has a good squad of players.
“Two three-year starters will be returning in Thomas Randolph and Zac Kelly on one side,” Rusk said, “and Terrell Stanley and Collin Bruton on the other, with Tre Ricks at center. We have a really strong group with these men.”
The linebacking is strong again this year for the Cougars, with Devante Stanley, Michael Rivenbark, Levi Prince, Dakota Lynch and Adam Herr. They will be asked to duplicate and improve on their success from last year.
It appears the starting quarterback will be Marvin, taking over for the graduated Zak Alcorn, now at Methodist College. South has capable backups in sophomore Nejuan Watts (6-2, 175) and Gary Williams (5-8, 145).
A.J. Ferguson (N.C. State), Greg Gilbert (Campbell University), Rick Logan, Rashawn Jenkins and Joey Hines (all three at N.C. Wesleyan) will be missed on offense and defense, but it looks as if the juniors and some sophomores will be able to step up and get things done.
Wes Kidd is the linebackers’ coach and Jack Southern the defensive line coach. David Kelly will help coach the offensive line. Rick Graham, the athletics trainer, stressed to the players at the first day of practice the importance of not getting dehydrated. Stacy Belter is the academic adviser.
The Jamboree is 6 p.m. Friday at Legion Stadium in Wilmington, with South scrimmaging ever-powerful Hoggard in the second game.
South plays 10 games this season, not counting the playoffs, five away and five at home. The opening game is 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at home against (Newton Grove) Midway High School.
South will play West Brunswick twice this year: Sept. 4 at home and Sept. 25 at West. Coach Kelley’s father is the principal at West Brunswick. That should make for an interesting conversation after the games.