Preseason is to be taken with a tablespoon of salt, but all four Nash County public high schools felt roughly the same after the first ever Nash County Jamboree held Thursday at Nash Central High School.
Each of the schools felt simultaneously good and bad about the way their teams played Thursday. There was positive and negative, and as is the custom with early-season football, plenty to correct.
In addition to the four Nash County public schools, Bertie, Southeast Halifax and Greenville Conley also participated in the event.
With live action came a chance to grow, and each of the four Nash County schools had at least one thing it needed to do better with the season one week away.
The Bulldogs seem to have found a potential breakout player in junior Charles Harvey, who will play running back alongside Khalil Macklin.
Quarterback Tyler Barrow and the Nash Central receivers showed promise, and the unit mostly avoided technical mistakes that are frequent in preseason.
“I really like our running backs,” Nash Central coach Kevin Crudup said. “They ran hard, especially on the perimeter. We ran good routes, and the quarterback controlled the huddle, got us in and out.”
Stopping the pass was a struggle for Nash Central, which still is in the process of determining who will make up its secondary and how often each player will play.
The Bulldogs allowed several big pass plays against several different opponents, but that was to be expected with so much shifting personnel.
“We just got to find the right secondary,” Crudup said. “We’re playing a lot of guys at different positions that haven’t played before. We just got to find the right combination.”
A year after allowing 25 points in nine out of 10 games, Northern Nash looked to be a vastly improved defense Thursday.
The first-team showed a consistent ability to stop the run, which it struggled mightily to do last season. New coach Randy Raper installed a new defensive mindset, and after another live test, he was pleased with the effort.
“Overall, I was pretty happy with what I saw,” Raper said. “We did some good things and others that we have to work on, but that’s everybody in preseason.”
Raper said Northern Nash has some depth at all positions, but it must work to improve its second-string players.
Senior JaQuez Avent is an emerging star at linebacker, while he and fellow senior Jaquez Howington spearhead a deep backfield.
“We go four or five deep back there,” Raper said. “We have a lot of guys that can run the football and be effective for us.”
Local fans probably didn’t need the Jamboree to tell them that Southern Nash again will have a pretty good offensive line. The Firebirds’ trademark was present in doses Thursday, and they plan to rely on the unit again.
“I thought overall, the (offensive line) was good,” Southern Nash coach Brian Foster said. “We missed some cutoffs and pulls and stuff, but overall, I thought it was decent.”
Southern Nash improved on defense as the night progressed, but the offense didn’t quite click as Foster had hoped. A choppy schedule contributed to that, he said, but the offense does have work remaining.
“We couldn’t really get in the flow of stuff,” Foster said. “It was just hard to get in a rhythm.”
Rocky Mount High
The Gryphons were perhaps the most up-and-down team of the four schools, but there was one thing Rocky Mount coach Jason Battle saw as a consistent positive: Energy.
“I liked that we played with more emotion (Thursday),” Battle said. “We had a greater sense of urgency and a lot more effort than we had in our first scrimmage.”
On both offense and defense, Rocky Mount made big plays and big errors, and Battle said across-the-board adjustments are coming.
But with them, he said, is progress.
“We got a whole lot to work on,” Battle said. “We’re not there yet, but I do see progress from scrimmaging.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com