High school football

Tigers will welcome new faces in 2013

ewarnock@newsobserver.comJuly 30, 2013 

Chapel Hill High School football head coach Issac Marsh talks with his players after a win in this file photo.

MARK DOLEJS - CHNSPORTS@NANDO.COM

— Fans watching Chapel Hill High School line up for the 2013 football season will notice something different right away about the Tigers.

T.J. Johnson won’t be behind the center.

Johnson, a three-year starter at quarterback who led CHHS to a combined 19-7 record and first-round playoff wins over the past two years, is now at St. Augustine’s in Raleigh.

“T.J. won several times for us with big plays late in the game,” Chapel Hill head coach Issac Marsh said as he prepared to welcome the Tigers back for the start of 2013 practices. “But it wasn’t just the big things he did that were important. We’re going to miss all the little things he did right, too.”

“The little things,” Marsh said, will determine how well Chapel Hill does this season. The Tigers lost 20 seniors and 14 of 22 starters from last year’s 9-4 team, including Johnson, bona fide All-American defensive back Alex Duncan (now at the Naval Academy,) and five other key members of the defense: linebackers Brad Randall and Kendall Simms, two-way starter Eddie Burgard, and tackles Alex Colson and Brian James.

CHHS still has a tremendous cornerstone upon which to build – all-conference running back Darius Allen – but this will be one of the youngest teams Marsh has coached in his 10 years as Chapel Hill’s head coach.

While Johnson’s graduation may be the most significant loss for the Tigers, quarterback is the one position where Marsh has the most options. He’s got three legitimate candidates, any one of which could get the job done: juniors Grant Deselm and Luke Christy and sophomore Jacob Guskiewicz.

Deselm was named all-conference in 2012 as a punter and got some playing time at quarterback, as did Christy. Guskiewicz was the starting quarterback last year for the junior varsity.

Each brings a different strength to the competition to see who will start the first game, Marsh said.

Deselm may be the best athlete of the three – able to play at quarterback, receiver and punter with equal ease – and can scramble effectively when needed. Christy “reads defenses extremely well,” Marsh said, and can put the ball wherever he aims. Guskiewicz “has a very strong arm and can get the ball down the field.”

Regardless of who starts at quarterback, he’ll be working with new offensive coordinator Adam Sanders, who replaces 12-year coach Ricky Bynum. And he can expect Allen at running back to jump-start the offense.

“Darius is one of those players who’s been able to stay under the radar most of the time in the Triangle, and that’s been a good thing for us because people didn’t see him coming,” Marsh said. “But before this season is over, he’s going to make his name known.”

Warnock: 919-932-8743

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