High School Football 2012:
Published: Aug 07, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Aug 07, 2012 01:26 PM
Few things show the improvement in East Chapel Hill High School’s football program more than the fact that six Wildcats from last year’s team expect to play college football this fall.
That’s also one of East Chapel Hill’s biggest problems.
East has graduated quality players before — notably Wake Forest fullback Rich Belton and University of South Carolina track star Antonio Sales. But never so many at one time.
For the first time in four years, East will begin a season without starting quarterback Drew Davis and his top receiver, Alex Moore. Davis, who set a state high school record for completions (43) in a game, is at the University of North Carolina along with classmate Andrew Moore, the leader of last year’s Wildcat defense; Alex Moore, who made the Associated Press all-state team after setting a season record for receptions (125), is at Elon University.
East also must replace two top, two-year starters along the offensive line — William Heine (Georgetown) and Miles Shearer (Methodist) — as well as lightning-quick wideout Quadry Ridley (Pembroke).
“We have lots of talented kids back,” said East Chapel Hill third-year coach Bill Renner. “Hopefully, we’ve had enough time to get our system into place and have everyone familiar with it. I’d like to think we’ll start out a higher level than we did the past two years.”
In the good news for East is the return of wide receiver Jackson Boyer, who’s the No. 1 returning pass-catcher in North Carolina after he grabbed 99 in 2011. Also a top student at East, one of the nation’s top high schools, he’s drawn the attention of multiple Division I programs, including Wake Forest.
Additionally, senior wideout Luke Arlotto has been noted as a preseason all-conference pick, and all-conference cornerback Will Buckley and former JV standout Troy Mitchell also look ready for some time at receiver.
The big question is who will throw them the ball?
Junior Ben Jones appears more than ready for his chance as a starting varsity quarterback, Renner said. Freshman Connor Stough, who led Smith Middle School to an undefeated season last year, will likely see some time at receiver as he backs up Jones, said Renner, who coached his own son Bryn, now the starting QB at Carolina, at wide receiver for his first two of high school rather than see him sit as a backup quarterback.
“Ben has a really good arm. He’s strong and accurate and he really knows he offense,” Renner said. “People forget that Drew had to miss some games because of an injury and had to learn our offense on the fly. Ben is starting out ahead in our system of where Drew was.
“I have every confidence that he’ll step in and do a good job right away.”
“A good start” is at the top of Renner’s priorities this year.
East finished 3-8 in 2011 after winning three PAC-6 Conference games for the first time in program history. While the powerful PAC-6 remains a major challenge for the Wildcats, Renner wants them to remember they barely missed the state playoffs in 2011 and would have qualified had they beaten any of their county-district rivals in the first half of their schedule: Carrboro, Cedar Ridge or Chapel Hill.
East is 1-11 versus Chapel Hill over the past 12 years, 0-7 versus Cedar Ridge and 0-5 versus Carrboro.
“We need to get off to a better start in the early season if we are to be successful,” Renner said.
East will be counting veterans like fourth-year letterman Will McIntee (committed to the Air Force Academy) and all-conference returnees Kevin Mangel and Chris Alston to bolster the line.
Junior Colby Owens and sophomore Jeremy Hubbard will be in the backfield, and East may run more than it did in 2011, when it passed 90 percent of the time.
“I think we’ll be better in the run game,” Renner said.