(Updated on August 8)
Triton was picked fourth in a preseason football coaches poll for the new 3-A/4-A All American Conference at a league gathering at Western Harnett on Wednesday, August 3.
Terry Sanford was designated the preseason favorite, receiving five of seven possible first-place votes. Pines Forest, which received the other two first-place votes, was picked second and Overhills was third.
Westover, E.E. Smith, Harnett Central and Western Harnett rounded out the poll. Coaches could not vote for their own team.
The Harnett schools will be playing in the Harnett Jamboree at Triton on August 11. Preseason practice got underway on Monday, August 2.
Triton coach Ben Penny said Sunday, August 8, that his program has lost its defensive linemen to quarantine and that means several offensive linemen, who play both ways, are out as well. Penny was going to make a decision on participating in the scrimmages on Monday, August 9. The situation is reminiscent pf the start of the spring season when the Hawks were limited in preparations by protocols.
Triton also had been paired with Overhills in the adjusted schedule for the Cumberland jamboree at Terry Sanford on August 13.
Sophomore Jalen Evans projects as the quarterback in the Hawks’ pistol Wing-T. Penny said running back J.J. Cowan has worked in the weight room and assumed a leadership role after an impressive freshman season. Malik McNeill is expected to contribute on both sides of the ball.
Lineman Nate McKoy as well as linebackers Ross Stevens and Noah Jackson are expected to be defensive leaders for Triton.
Overhills and Pine Forest are the only 4-A teams in the All-American. Their matchup on October 29 in the regular-season finale at Pine Forest will determine who gets an automatic playoff berth as the league’s 4-A champion.
The Jaguars plan to play freshman Jordan Bryant at quarterback. His dad, Tywan Bryant, is defensive coordinator for Overhills. Look for the Jags to spread the field and push the tempo on offense.
First-year Overhills coach Bernard Bacon likes the depth of his receiving corps. Bacon’s resume includes a stint as coach for a women’s team in Greensboro as well as run-game coordinator for Hillside’s 2010 state champions.
Harnett Central coach Matt Migliore expects to start sophomore Aiden Taylor at quarterback. He is the grandson of Russell Taylor, Western Harnett athletic director.
The Trojans went 2-5 in the 2021 spring season after going 6-5 in 2019.
“I think the record would have been better if we had played in the fall,” said Migliore after dealing with multiple quarantines.
Western Harnett has brought in Zach Tenuta from Norfolk State as coach.
“We’ve been working to try and change the culture,” Tenuta said. “The kids have bought in. … If some things go our way early, it could help us.”
Trent Botts is projected as quarterback of an Eagles offense that will feature running back Elijah Bass.
Steven Hales (wide receivers), Seth Womble (defensive line) and Tim Justice (secondary) were retained from the previous staff at Western.
Terry Sanford coach Bruce McClelland said replacing the leadership of 11 starting seniors will be vital. Jre Jackson is a proven running back for the Bulldogs. Jonathan Higgins-Simmons is a bigger back and will push Jackson. Terry Sanford’s attack potentially can range from spread to power I.
Play of the offensive line will be a key factor for Pine Forest, according to coach Bill Sochovka.
“We have seven returners on defense and a good group of skill people, so it comes down to the offensive line,” said Sochovka of the group that will enable senior quarterback Keyshun Taylor.
E.E. Smith coach Andy Karcher, former offensive coordinator at Triton, said staying healthy will be important for the Golden Bulls, who had 33 players out initially.
E.E. Smith opens the season with four road games — at Seventy-First, at Cape Fear, at Clinton and, after a bye week — plays its first league contest at Triton on September 17.
Westover coach Ernest King is ready to see the benefits of playing youngsters earlier who have matured in the program. He noted that the Wolverines were within a touchdown of Terry Sanford in the fourth quarter on Feb. 26, an indicator perhaps of the All American’s potential balance.
The league has set 7 p.m. as a standard kickoff time.
All American Preseason Football Poll
Place, Team (First-place votes) Points
1, Terry Sanford (5) 41
2, Pine Forest (2) 38
3, Overhills 29
4, Triton 26
5, E.E. Smith 18
5, Westover 18
7, Harnett Central 15
8, Western Harnett 11
Points awarded on basis of seven for first, six for second, five for third, etc. Coaches could not vote for their own team.
2021 Spring Records
Triton (4-3, 4-1 Tri-County Six 3-A Conference)
Harnett Central (2-5, 2-3 Tri-County)
Western Harnett (0-7, 0-5 Tri-County)
Terry Sanford (6-2, 5-1 Patriot 3-A/4-A Athletic Conference)
Pine Forest (4-3, 4-2 Patriot)
Overhills (3-4, 3-3 Patriot)
Westover (1-5, 1-5 Patriot)
E.E. Smith (1-5, 1-5 Patriot)