North's young players have short time to adapt to varsity football

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

LELAND—The backfield is set, but who will block for it is one of the questions North Brunswick High School football coach Garry Bishop was trying to determine during the first week of practice.

North graduated 18 players from its 2008 playoff team, but A.J. Perkins returns at quarterback.

“He did an excellent job last year as a junior,” Bishop said. “We asked him not to make a whole lot of mistakes early in the year, and he got a little bit more involved as the year went on.

“We expect him to be a leader, keep control on the field, do the same thing he did last year.”

Chris Hamilton, the JV quarterback last year, is the backup.

“He has great arm, is a good athlete. Capable of stepping in if something happens to A.J. We feel very confident with him.”

Anthony Gaines, all-conference last year, returns at tailback, as does D.J. Graham.

“They are pushing each other,” Bishop said.

“I think Anthony might have better open-field moves. D.J. might have a little more power. That’s why we want to run him at fullback as well.”

The starting fullback will be junior Jirese Thomas, a tailback last year for the JV who scored 22 touchdowns, Bishop said.

“He knows how to get to the end zone.”

He also found his way to the weight room.

“He’s gotten strong,” Bishop said. “Our fullbacks will run the ball a lot more than last year. We’ll stay in the I-formation more.”

Backups are juniors Jameyel Batts, KyErice Myers and Mark Tilman.

“We got depth there,” Bishop said. “We’re not going to have a problem at all. Backfield is ready to go.”

The offensive line, however, “is a major point of concern,” Bishop said. “We have to develop some depth. We got some good, young kids up from the JV. Everybody could potentially start. So we feel good about that.”

Junior Ivory Myers and senior Andrew Parker are returning tackles. Senior C.J. Bress will be a guard.

From the JV, Zac Sellers, Tylon Kelly are contenders for center. Eric Joyner is a tackle. Robert Bowen and Joshua Lee-Richburg are guards. Sophomore Torrance Shaw is the youngest lineman. Altemus Hooper and Michael Burns are senior linemen.

“Probably the key to our season is how well these guys can come around and be effective at this level,” Bishop said. “We feel confident they can do it. They’re working hard, they’re good kids and they’re all strong enough.”

North has many receivers on the roster: Tyler Burton, De’Montez Lennon, Montez Lane, DeMeir Robinson, Russell Greene, Jalani Smith, Calvin Marshall, Deshaun Stroman, Antwan Grady, Antwan David, Allyn Hardy, D’Andre Johnson.

The kicker and punter will be senior Eric Spafford. T.J. Faircloth, from the JV last season, will also do some kicking.

The defensive set will be either a 4-3 or a 4-4.

As with the offensive line, just four days into practice the defensive line was undetermined.

Keilien Rayner, on the varsity last year as a freshman, will be an end.

“He’s going to be a very good player,” Bishop said.

The other end probably will be senior Nate Waddell, Bishop said, another returning starter.

Parker will be a starter at tackle. Joyner and Hooper will also be used on the defensive line.

Size is not the determining factor in who will start, Bishop said.

“They just got to be tough-nosed, get after it and don’t get blown up back into he linebackers,” he said. “They’re big kids, but we don’t mind using small, quick kids in there. You don’t have to be big to play defensive line in high school. Just a lot of heart and a lot of want.”

Myers, a defensive end last year, will be the middle linebacker.

“He is the strongest player on the team,” Bishop said.

Graham, Bress (“one of our best hitters”) and Richburg also will be linebackers. KyErice Myers, who started at linebacker on the JV, and Thomas, another JV linebacker last year, give North plenty of depth.

“All those guys can hit you,” Bishop said. “I wouldn’t feel bad about having any of those guys in the game.”

But Bishop may move some players to defensive end to get four players and needed depth at that position. Waddell and Tilman are likely to play at defensive end, Bishop said.

The first week the safeties were senior Lennon and Gaines. Senior Allyn Hardy will play more this year in the secondary, Bishop said. DeMeir Robinson will be a cornerback. Newcomer Greene, juniors Burton, Smith, Lane and Batts and senior Terrell Robinson also will be considered for the secondary, Bishop said.

“We don’t know how that is going to pan out,” Bishop said. “We have to see what these JV kids can do.

“I think we can put a good defense out there. I feel confident the defense is going to be pretty stingy. All of them can tackle and hit. All of them are aggressive.”

Bishop has just one scrimmage before the season starts in a new conference.

“You have some tough football teams and you got some good coaches,” Bishop said. “You ain’t going to out-trick them. They’re all going to be sound football teams, and you better be the same way, or they’ll find your weaknesses.”

Michael Paul is sports editor of the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or sports@brunswickbeacon.com.