2017 football season next after Tarboro Jamboree
By PATRICK MASON and ETHAN JOYCE
Saturday, August 12, 2017
TARBORO — Devonta Davis flew around freely Friday during a slew of quick matchups.
The senior cornerback helped the Vikings allow only two touchdowns by opponents during the Tarboro Jamboree. This past week has provided him more contact football than the previous year before it, and Davis is loving every hit.
“This feels good,” Davis said. “I hadn’t played in a minute so I didn’t know how my body would be.
“When I first took contact, I got used to it and got back in the groove.”
Before last season, in a scrimmage with Greenville Conley, Davis was injured. He found out later that it was a dislocated tailbone, which required him to do nothing active for six months. That killed his junior year, and it took him out of competing with a team that advanced to the fourth round of the NCHSAA1-AA playoffs.
By the time he healed, the season was over. And even though Davis couldn’t play, his coaches tried to keep him engaged on the sideline. Tarboro defensive coordinator Andrew Harding mentioned a next-man-up mentality at Tarboro, shrugging at the overused phrase. The defense had to find the answer to who would replace Davis.
But while the Vikings moved on from the injury, Harding and Tarboro head coach Jeff Craddock reminded Davis he wasn’t forgotten.
Harding said during practices that Davis would try to go sit on the bleachers and stay out of the way. Harding would shout for him to come down. And when games shifted into blowouts and the sideline was loose, the coaches would continue to motivate him.
“I would put my arm around him and say, ‘Don’t you worry, man. It’s going to come,” Harding said. “And he has worked his tail off.”
As soon as he was cleared to lift again, Davis began working out with Irvin Glass, the junior varsity defensive coordinator. Davis was weak after so much inactivity, but he kept hounding his muscles to grow. Harding recalled seeing him on Saturdays when the coach expected no one to be around the school. And Craddock said Davis’ dedication was unrelenting.
“He was really frustrated because he loves the weight room,” Craddock said. “He was focusing on getting back, but he was very weak for him.
“. . . By around the end of March, you could see the size coming back and the speed coming back, and he is right back where he was.”
Tarboro returned to Greenville Conley on Wednesday for a scrimmage, and Davis trotted out to play. Harding said that Davis is too hard on himself. The cornerback already looked comfortable on the field again that day. Harding recalled Conley connecting on a big pass play, then following up with a bubble screen. That second play, Davis drove in and downed the pass catcher.
“He looked like a missile,” Harding said.
On Friday, Davis admitted that he was timid during Tarboro’s first pairing with Greenville Rose. But after his first play, he got past it. On the whole, the Tarboro defense looked strong in what’s setting up to be a title-contending year for Tarboro. And Davis will be a big part of a unit that Craddock expects even more from.
“For the first 40 plays, I thought our defense played really well, and I thought our defense played really well,” Craddock said of Friday’s performance. “For the first 40, I thought we looked good and sharp.”
The Warriors are searching for ways to recreate the success of last season’s run game, which produced three 1,000-yard rushers. The key to that ground attack was a beefy offensive line that has took a hit due to graduation.
North Edgecombe has two returning starters on that line, and the thinning has forced some players to play both ways. Coach Keith Parisher is working on a right mix to make sure those guys stay fresh, especially late in games.
“We have to find a balance,” Parisher said. “We’re still moving some guys around to see what fits best. I think we’ll be all right. We rely on those lineman so much, so getting them where they need to be is where we’re at.”
The Warriors competed well on Friday and showed flashes of a strong rushing attack. On defense, North Edgecombe wanted to be crisp against a passing offense, and Greenville Rose fit that description. Greenville Rose threw often in its spread sets, giving North Edgecombe a preview for what it will see Week 1 against Nash Central.
“Getting our guys to play against the spread is important,” Parisher said. “We’ll be tested right away through the air.”
The Cougars displayed bursts of athleticism of both offense and defense and mixed in some power run sets with senior Alex Foster. SouthWest Edgecombe used backup quarterback Willis Marshall often after losing starting quarterback Tre Williams to an elbow injury. Williams was taken to the hospital, and coach Jonathan Cobb said “it remains to be seen” how his QB situation will shake out.
Marshall, who led the JV squad last season, looked sharp in his time under center.
Dashon Bandy, a new addition to the Cougars’ defense, had a stretch where he made several plays in the run game, including a crunching solo tackle on the edge. Bandy, a junior, saw a lot of time on the JV squad as a freshman before playing a little offense on varsity last season.
But Bandy figures to be one of the Cougars’ starting cornerbacks this season. He is quick enough to defend the deep ball, showing off that skillset during the scrimmage against Greenville Rose.
“I could feel myself take a big step from my freshman to sophomore year,” Bandy said. “I started to understand everything. Now, in a new position this year and getting playing time, I’m starting to feel that step coming again.”