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K.O. Bay Rivers Preview: Smithfield @ Bruton

September 24, 2010

       By: Kellen Owings 

         The Smithfield Packers and the Bruton Panthers will square off in week three in a matchup of defending district co-champions.  Both Smithfield and Bruton start the season 2-0, both with one win the Bay Rivers District.  Smithfield needed a late goal line stand to defeat Warhill 28-21 last week, while Bruton dominated New Kent 46-7.

          Bruton QB Elliott Rice went off for 147 yards rushing and five touchdowns, while Smithfield running back Demonte McClary ran for 157 and four TDs.  Both runners and running games will be featured, just as they were in last year’s matchup.

          Bruton won last year’s meeting 16-7. The Panthers were able to go ahead using the run, then controlled the clock by running inside.  Bruton’s quick defense was able to contain the Smithfield running game, preventing the Packers from running outside and getting the ball into space.  Smithfield tried to control the clock as well, but just weren’t able to complete enough passes to do so.

          Bruton also features running back D’ Anthony Lee, who is back on track and off to a good start after blowing out his knee last year.  Deep with backs, the Panthers will look to run and run often, especially with Rice’s speed at the QB position.  The Panthers have some big play ability in the passing game with WR De’Arius Olvis, one of the districts best athletes. 

          The Smithfield Defense is young, and still poses a bit of a question mark.  They have been getting good play from their line, lead by Corey Wells.  The defense was able to come up big last week against Warhill, stopping QB Shaun Cvengros a yard short of the end zone in the final seconds.  However, the Packers are inexperienced in the secondary, and they can be exploited by the passing game.

          Smithfield will run a ball-control, power offense with Demonte McClary and Corey Wells at fullback.  McClary is the perfect back for this offense, a good blend of speed and power.  James Wrenn is a steady hand at QB, who can run as well, enabling the Packers to run some option.  A very good offensive line, lead by Travon Tynes and Zach Emerson, will explode off the ball and help get McClary to the second level.  The Packers will look to exert the power running game, but Wrenn will need to be on his game to allow them to do so.

          Bruton has good speed on defense, and will use it to blitz frequently.  Olvis is a big playmaker at linebacker and hits hard.  They have aggressive corners in Capri Doucet and Rice who will look to take advantage of throws under pressure.

          Smithfield will try to exert their strength on the Panthers, and win the game in the trenches on both sides of the ball.  They want to employ their power running game, while stopping Bruton’s ground attack.  Bruton will lean on Rice to make plays with his arms and legs.  If the Panther running game is successful, that will open things up for the play action pass, and the Packers can be taken advantage of in the secondary.

          I think this game will play out a lot like last year’s did.  Both teams will focus on establishing the run, and will be able to do so fairly effectively.  The key is which team can complete enough passes to stay on the field, and convert third downs.  I think Bruton is better prepared to do so.

          The game will see some more points that last season’s version.  Elliott Rice will make enough big plays on the ground and with his arm to fuel a win, but Smithfield will be able to keep it close on the strength of their line play and running game.  


Bruton 21 Smithfield 14

 Kellen Owings


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January 25, 2010

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January 17, 2010

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Oscar Smith Trio Considers College Choices

January 14, 2010

Charlie Ricks (Photo: Steve Earley)

Finally, we have some news on Oscar Smith seniors and where they might be headed in the fall.  Oscar Smith High School QB Phillip Sims committed to Alabama and Lineman Evan Hailes committed to Penn State before the season ever started.   It’s been quiet on the recruiting front at Oscar Smith for quite a while.   The visits from college coaches have been frequent, but there has been a lot of window shopping. 

A number of seniors on Oscar Smith’s regional champion team should be college bound, beyond Sims and Hailes who finished their high school work early and have left for college.   We have news on three prominent players in the class of 2010.   

Charlie Ricks (WR 6-0 160) was the region’s leader in receptions in 2009, with 59 catches for 996 yards and 15 touchdowns.   He was All-District, All-Tidewater and AAA All-State at DB and/or WR depending on the publication.  Ricks sat out last year due to academic issues, but is finally back on track and has visits set up for UMass, Towson and Maryland later this month.  

Jeremy Majette (MLB 6-0 240) was second-team All Southeastern District for 2009.  He was probably a victim of Oscar Smith’s success as far as post-season player honors are concerned.   Coaches and writers aren’t going to recognize everyone on an Oscar Smith team full of solid contributors.   Jeremy has a least one confirmed visit this month: Old Dominion will host Majette on January 29.  We have no word of other visits or offers for Majette at this point.

Corey Steward (Photo: Thomas Slusser)

Lastly, Corey Steward (OL/DL 5-10 240) is getting noticed.  The First Team All-District lineman has been considered underheight for DI FBS play, but he’s received a number of Division II offers, including one from Virginia Union.

Coach Richard Morgan at Oscar Smith has done well in getting players to the college level over the last few years.  This year will be no exception, but you can be sure that he’s motivated by the bewilderingly slow pace of offers coming to his kids.  There are more undergrads in the wings at Oscar Smith and they’ll be sure to prove themselves to colleges next season.  The Oscar Smith pipeline of talent isn’t going to dry up anytime soon.

South Florida and Tennessee Jobs Are a Hot Topic

January 13, 2010

ECU Coach Skip Holtz

The coaching carousel is spinning out of control now.  The Tennessee and USF jobs are now open. National Signing Day is February 3 and these jobs have to be filled pronto.  Of course, in order to fill these jobs, someone has to be taken from their current job.  What happens next?

 For the USF job, Skip Holtz of ECU has been rumored to be the front runner.  Holtz has turned ECU into a conference champion and steady bowl team after the Pirates slumped from 2002-04 with a 7-27 record.  Holtz arrived in 2005 and has now led the Pirates to four straight bowl games.  If Holtz were to depart from ECU, AD Terry Holland would have his hands full trying to fill the position.  Equally challenging would be the task of growing the program further.  While East Carolina has been elevated by Holtz’ leadership, it may be difficult for a new head coach to build the program into anything more than what it is now without a move up to a BCS conference.  Big East membership for ECU has been dreamed about for years, but nothing concrete has developed out of those aspirations as of yet.

 USF offers Skip Holtz the opportunity to build off of Jim Leavitt’s success.  South Florida has grown considerably since the program’s birth in the 1990’s, but USF still has the challenge of conference championships and BCS bowl berths to work toward.

Texas Coach Will Muschamp

 Tennessee is in a completely different situation.  Lane Kiffin gave the Vols a one year honeymoon and has abruptly left, taking a significant portion of his staff and part of the 2010 recruiting class with him.  Whoever comes in for that job would have to come in quickly and immediately work toward salvaging this year’s recruiting class.  Candidates for the position have been bandied about already, and those names include Will Muschamp (defensive coordinator and heir apparent at Texas), Randy Edsall of UConn, and David Cutcliffe of Duke.  

Muschamp is the hottest name in the bunch, but he’s already in line for the head coaching position at Texas as soon as Mack Brown decides to step down.  The problem for Muschamp is that no one knows when Brown will vacate the job.  

Edsall was in the mix for the Notre Dame job, though no one is sure that he wants to leave UConn.  Coach Edsall has coached at UConn for eleven seasons now and is a native northeasterner.  His recruiting ties to the South are few.

David Cutcliffe has coached in the SEC before, as an assistant at Tennessee and head coach at Ole Miss from 1998 to 2004.  His success as a head coach has been minimal.  His combined record as a head coach at Ole Miss and Duke is 53-44.  Beyond his head coaching experience, Cutcliffe’s claim to fame is that he coached both Eli and Peyton Manning, who now enjoy life as stars in the NFL. “Cut” has the most southern connections of the three names mentioned, but do the Vols want to see him come back?  Is there a bigger name that they have in mind?

 The USF and Tennessee jobs will get filled and in turn will create two new openings.  The coaching carousel will continue to turn.

Tarheel Football Moving Ahead With Transfers and Dismissals

January 13, 2010

The UNC Football roster is in flux.  Every coach has to plan around graduating seniors, and a talented team will occasionally see players leave early for the NFL.  This off-season, the departures seem planned and for the benefit of Coach Butch Davis and his Tarheels.  Fortunately for Coach Davis, he has six key juniors returning for their senior seasons.  None will depart early for the NFL.  In fact, the Tarheels will graduate 13 seniors this year, but only one would be called an impact player.  Senior Kyle Jolly (OT 6-6 300) was an All-ACC pick for the 2009 season, but all eight of the other All-ACC Heels were underclassmen.  The Carolina Football squad will see a lot of quality players return. 

The non-senior departures look to be part of a movement to get fresh players in on scholarship.  Five non-seniors will leave the program.   Additionally, two of the three recruits that they oversigned in 2009 won’t be back. 

North Carolina sent Johnnie Farms (OG 6-2 285), Jerrell Rhodes (RB 5-10 195) and D.J. Bunn (CB 5-11 190) to Hargrave Military Academy together.  Only D.J. Bunn is going to make it back to UNC as part of the 2010 class.  Rhodes is now committed to Memphis and Johnnie Farms is uncommitted for 2010.

 UNC is losing some talented players in the five that aren’t returning, but it’s likely part of an orchestrated attrition.    Blue Chip recruit Jamal Womble has decided to transfer. Womble (RB 5-11 215) was a part of the 2008 class at UNC.  He’s from Arizona and turned down Arizona State to come to UNC.   Womble has three years of eligibility remaining but would have to burn one by sitting out a year to play at a PAC-10 school.   

Rashad Mason (WR 6-6 215) is another blue chipper that’s opted to transfer.  Mason, from Nashville, Tennessee, was a part of the 2007 class.  He turned down Kentucky, Michigan and Mississippi to come to Carolina.  With only two years of eligibility remaining, he may opt to drop down a level in order to play immediately.     Mason was a reserve who saw little playing time, but could contribute significantly to another program.

Hawatha Bell is yet another blue chip player on the outs with Coach Butch Davis.  Bell’s case is a little more complicated.  He is a redshirt freshman from Charlotte who was kept from playing in Carolina’s Meineke Bowl appearance a few weeks ago.  He has now been dismissed from the team.  Bell was recruited out of Mathews, NC and had multiple offers from DI FBS schools all over the region.   Bell (ILB 6-1 225) would be in the same situation as Jamal Womble, having three years to play three seasons.  He would have to sit out a year in order to play at another FBS program or he could play next year at a FCS level school. 

The last two players leaving North Carolina early carry less impact.  Vince Jacobs (TE 6-7 218) of Charlotte, NC is a junior who finished his undergraduate degree work and leaves the program after not registering any statistics this season.  Jacobs was a four-star rated player coming out of high school, but was rarely utilized.  Another Tight End leaving the program is redshirt freshman Randy White of Bristol, VA (6-5 228).  White was a less heralded player out of high school who saw no playing time with the Heels.

Because of these departures, Butch Davis now has five more scholarships for his 2010 class.  He seems to be pushing away players that didn’t pan out under his system with the plan to bring freshmen that might be a better fit.