High School Football:
Published: Aug 13, 2012 03:02 PM
Modified: Aug 13, 2012 03:12 PM
GIBSONVILLE - Math is easy, says East Chapel Hill football coach Bill Renner.
As least, it's easy the way he figures things.
"Every week, we want to be 10 percent better than we were the week before. After five weeks, we'll be 50 percent better than we were. Ten weeks, we will be 100 percent better," Renner said last week. "The math is easy."
That calculus began Wednesday evening at Eastern Guilford High School with a little bit of Wildcat-on-Wildcat violence in a controlled scrimmage. East Wildcats and Eastern's Wildcats took turns running 10 plays at a time against each other's defenses, with coaches on the field with their players to guide the action and critique.
"There are things that we need to fix and to get better at, but this was a good start; the guys did a good job," Renner said. "I liked our enthusiasm, from the first snap to the end.
We didn't get distracted. It was a lot over a long time an hour and a half of football with no breaks so they kept their minds focused over the whole time."
As promised, East Chapel Hill was better by end of the evening than when it started.
An intense thunderstorm soaked the Guilford County school barely an hour before the teams tried to take the field, leaving both the game facility and main practice sodden. The two squads slogged their way next door to Eastern Guilford Middle School, which was likewise soggy but playable.
Field conditions slowed both teams' offenses, taking a slight edge off of East Chapel Hill's obvious speed in its passing game. But the visiting Wildcats still "won" the scrimmage with a series of deep passes for apparent touchdowns from new quarterback Ben Jones to receivers Luke Arlotto, Troy Mitchell, Will Buckley and Jackson Boyer as running back Colby Owens.
"I thought Ben did awesome," Renner said.
Mitchell displayed some physicality with his runs after catching the ball. On a play late in the scrimmage, with shadows descending on the field, Mitchell took a hard hit as he hauled in a tipped pass from Jones pass, eliciting hoots and cheers from the hosts' sideline. Mitchell flipped the defender over his hip, dodged an onrushing safety and sprinted the rest of the way untouched, shifting the loud cheers from the Eastern players over to the East sideline.
Owens, a 220-pound junior converted from a defensive tackle into a running back, also added impressive heft to East Chapel Hill's once-dormant running game, powering into the line and breaking a few tackles.
On defense, East Chapel Hill demonstrated some new toughness against the run. Defensive tackle Chris Alston, a 290-pound, 5-11 junior, 6-3 defensive end Kevin Mangel and linebacker Armond Barry repeatedly penetrated the Eastern front.
"We've been working hard in the off-season, and I think it's paying off some," Alston said. "I'll think we'll be better."
Eastern Guilford (6-6 last year) enjoyed occasional success on offense, breaking a trap off-tackle into a TD and hitting at least one pass deep for a score. But overall the East Chapel Hill defense contained the run and broke up several passes; Buckley and Manny Banks each picked off at least one Eastern pass.
First-year Eastern Guilford coach David Hines, who played at North Davidson and coached at Chocowinity Southside and Cherokee before moving to Gibsonville, was pleased with his Wildcats' progress.
"Overall, the intensity was good, and we saw what we need to work on," Hines said. "In your first contact with somebody else, it's always going to be interesting.
"East Chapel Hill is going to be a fine football team. I love their passing game.
They gave us great looks offensively and defensively for our defense and our offense. After watching them tonight, I feel pretty confident that they can do well, and I'll be pulling for them."
Next up: East Chapel Hill opens its season Friday at 7:30 p.m. at East Wake High School. Chapel Hill will host South Granville, and Carrboro will be at Central Davidson.
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