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LELAND — The North Brunswick High School football team faces state-ranked competition in the inaugural season of the Class 2A East Central Conference. Perhaps by the end of the conference season, North will be among those teams.
The Scorpions have a home game Oct. 11 against Southwest Onslow (Jacksonville), ranked No. 2 among Class 2A teams by Carolina Gridiron. Southwest Onslow won the NCHSAA Class 1AA state title in 2012.
North has a home game Nov. 1 against Northside (Jacksonville), ranked No. 3. Northside lost last year in the NCHSAA Class 2AA Eastern Regional game.
North begins its season Aug. 23 at Whiteville, and it may take until then before Garry Bishop, head coach at North since 1994, decides who will be the starting quarterback.
“We got three good ones that are battling it out,” Bishop said Aug. 6 while discussing his team.
Senior Emel Tilman has the most varsity experience.
“He’s a real good option quarterback,” Bishop said. “Distributes the ball well to the right guy. Really good on his pitches.”
Shelton Perkins was the quarterback on the unbeaten junior varsity team.
“He can run the option not quite as good as Emel but he’s a really good passer and he’s mobile,” Bishop said.
Senior Randy Clark, used mainly for backup purposes in camp while Perkins was playing in a baseball tournament, is showing he has some skills to be a quarterback, Bishop said. Clark was all-conference last year as a tight end and linebacker.
“He’s looking fantastic in the spread offense,” Bishop said. “So it’s really a three-way battle now. That’s three good ones. So we feel real fortunate right now at the quarterback position.”
The top prospects at tailback are junior Deshawn Montgomery — on the JV last year, he has been to every summer workout — and senior Shak Graham.
“We’ll rotate those two,” Bishop said.
Senior Brandon Addison is the backup.
“We have some wideouts who are running backs-receivers,” Bishop said. “We have a good group of those.”
Among them are senior Kevon Perkins, sophomore Forrest Kelly, senior Kyheem Cheatham and senior Bryan Perkins.
“All four are good slot guys — small, quick, good hands, running a 4.4-, 4.5-second 40. Kevon runs a 4.3. So we good speed and players who can do something with it when the get in open space.”
Other receivers are sophomore Jordan Howard, senior J.J. Batts and junior Luke Cason. Batts, along with Addison, were members of North’s four-by-400 relay that finished second in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 2A state track meet in May.
In a tight-end set, Clark, Garrett Scoggins, junior Dominique Blanks and junior Jerry Andrews can be used, Bishop said.
The projected starting offensive line will be five players from the unbeaten JV team.
“I could have had half the JV on the varsity last year,” Bishop said. “We kept them down there. I should have (brought) them up.”
The center is Joseph Johnson.
“He’s smart,” Bishop said. “Snaps the ball in the shotgun well. He’s a football player — he loves the game, he loves practice. He’s the kind of guy you want touching the ball every time.”
What is unsettled are the two tackle spots. Senior Jabril Robinson (6-4, 250) will be used more on defense this year, Bishop said, instead of playing offense and defense.
Junior Garrett Brown and sophomore Connor Fennell are the top prospects at tackle, Bishop said. Junior Douglas Hickman is another contender at tackle.
“We’re lacking depth at tackle right now,” Bishop said, noting Robinson will be used at times at tackle. “So we got to work on that one.”
The guards are junior twins Erick and Derrick Wheeler. (K.J. Bowden, a starting guard last year, will be used more on defense, Bishop said.)
“They are very smart and very capable,” Bishop said.
That assessment seems to apply to offensive unit.
“They are ahead of schedule (in learning) this new offense,” Bishop said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well they are doing with it.”
A key to a successful season will be how little Robinson and Bowden — both all-conference players last year— have to be used as offensive linemen. In a scrimmage Aug. 10 against Ashley, they did play together on offense when North had the ball inside the 20.
“We feel confident they’ll be fine,” Bishop said.
Bishop’s 3-5 defense is set, and he said his team is dominant at linebacker.
Robinson, who has said he intended to play college football at Clemson, is the most dominant lineman of the three. Junior Evin Bellamy is projected to be the other end. The starter at nose tackle has yet to be decided, but freshman Tyrone Watson is a top prospect. Hickman is another defensive lineman.
The list of linebackers seems endless: Bowden, Clark, Andrews, Blanks, Graham, Montgomery, Scoggins, Brian Wormuth, Miguel Cano, Shamori Tilman and Erick Wheeler.
“When we put them in to play, we’re not missing a beat,” Bishop said. “Some of our second-team guys will be as good as our first. The guys outside are pretty quick.”
Kevon Perkins and Cheatham return at cornerback.
Bryan Perkins is another cornerback. Tilman and Kelly are safeties/cornerbacks. Addison is a safety. Junior Anthony Walker, Howard and Cason also are defensive backs.
In all, Bishop said this is a defense that “is aggressive.”
“We know we got some strikers,” he said. “And we got one D-I guy who has committed to Clemson. So, hopefully, he can dominate.”
Clark will be the punter. Armando Bojorquez and Cano will be placekicking.
“We have two kickers we have confidence in,” Bishop said.
Lopez kicked extra points on the JV and varsity.
“(Cano), as a freshman, was able to put some (kickoffs) in the end zone,” Bishop said. “He has a real strong leg.”
North finished 6-6 overall last year and lost in the first round of the state playoffs. Bishop seemed enthusiastic and energetic as he enters his 20th year as head coach at North.
“I’m fortunate I have a great coaching staff,” he said.
They are Darren Willis, defensive coordinator; Chuck Bishop, offensive coordinator; Tony Thomas, kickers; George Knips, secondary/receivers; Ed Horsmon, linemen; Charlie Bishop; Toby Kasell; Ryan Huffman; Dustin Medlin and Alex Zsidisin.
Contending for a conference title will be challenging.
Besides the two Jacksonville schools, East Duplin will be strong, Bishop said.
“(East Duplin) played them both tough last year,” Bishop said. “Dixon won seven games, I think. That’s the best season they had in a long time.
“It’s a tough conference. We better be ready. It’s only seven teams, but three of them are powerhouses — and we’re not bad.”
varsity football schedule
Games begin at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 23, at Whiteville
Aug. 30, Trask
Sept. 6, at East Columbus
Sept. 13, at South Brunswick
Sept. 20 West Brunswick
Sept. 27, Purnell Swett (homecoming)
Oct. 4, no game
Oct. 11, Southwest Onslow
Oct. 18, at Croatan
Oct. 25, at Dixon
Nov. 1, Northside
Nov. 8, East Duplin
Nov. 15, first round of playoffs