LILLINGTON — Few teenagers would relish the idea of getting up at 5 a.m. on a school day. On a Saturday morning during their summer vacation, most teens would have a very serious problem with it.
Colby Owens thought it was just fine last weekend.
“It’s a team bonding thing,” said Owens, an East Chapel Hill senior. “It was definitely worth it.”
Owens, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound running back and defender on the Wildcats football team, made the most of last Saturday’s scrimmage at Western Harnett.
East Chapel Hill was the first local football team this summer to get in a full-contact scrimmage against an outside opponent.
The Wildcats have second scrimmage planned for 7 p.m. Friday at Franklinton.
A much-anticipated scrimmage between Chapel Hill and Hillside that had been scheduled for last Saturday night was bumped to Monday night due to rain. The scrimmage had been moved once already to Durham because CHHS officials were concerned about the state of the new turf laid at Culton-Peerman Stadium.
The Tigers will find out if the new turf has set when they scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Apex.
Carrboro’s first scrimmage is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday night against Raleigh Athens Drive. The Jaguars will host the game.
Last Saturday, East Chapel Hill’s Wildcats starting gathering before dawn at their school’s parking lot for an 80-minute bus ride to Lillington. Originally planned for an evening session, the scrimmage had been moved up because of concerns about heat.
Western’s Eagles gave East Chapel Hill exactly what it was looking for in the one-hour scrimmage, run without a scoreboard or clock but with a full contingent of officials on hand. The teams kept two sets of plays going most of the time, in effect running two scrimmages simultaneously on separate halves of the field.
“We got to play against a bunch of guys who were really strong and really physical,” East Chapel Hill coach Jon Sherman said. “I didn’t want us to play against spread offense. I wanted to see our defense against a real downhill running game, a physical team that would hit you in the mouth.”
Western Harnett, a 3A program, had greater numbers of JV and varsity players on the field than 4A East Chapel Hill, but the Wildcats out-played them.
East Chapel Hill drove the ball well on the ground and scored on its first series, with sophomore quarterback Connor Stough hitting Arkavius Parks on a 30-yard strike for a touchdown. That set the tone for the Wildcats, who ended most of their possessions in the end zone.
The Wildcats’ offensive and defensive lines, with more players over 225 than any recent East team, controlled the line of scrimmage most of the morning.
Owens typified the Wildcats’ new physicality. In addition to his strong running performance Saturday, Owens played at defensive end, helping the Wildcats stymie Western.
“It was good to get out there,” Owens said. “I thought our defense in all the seven-on-sevens this summer was pretty good. Now I think we can be superb.”
Sherman said exactly the same thing in the post-scrimmage huddle, praising the defense as “superb.”
“Our offense started out well running the ball,” he said. “The receivers need to step it up some, run their routes better. … The line was really getting in there. I was very happy with that.”