There was a silver lining in the rain clouds as Triton’s varsity football team fell, 33-0, in its season opener at Knightdale on Friday afternoon.
The 3-A Hawks finally got to line up against an opponent, albeit a rugged 4-A foe on the road. COVID protocols prevented Triton from having a preseason scrimmage.
The Hawks were down 26-0 at halftime but got some things fixed over the last 24 minutes.
“We played a heck of a football team,” said Triton coach Ben Penny. “We made some mistakes early on in coverage, and good football teams are going to take advantage of that.
“The message at halftime was to ‘Get Better!’ We haven’t had a lot of practices. We needed to focus on the situations in the second half and get better each play. I thought we did that.
“Offensively, we couldn’t get going. Knightdale flew to the football extremely well, doing things we couldn’t simulate. At times we were a step away from breaking it, but we couldn’t get going like we wanted to. They were a good football team and took advantage of our inexperience.”
Triton hosts nonconference rival South Johnston on Friday night. The Trojans are coming off a 21-7 home loss to Hunt.
“We will get better,” Penny said. “We needed to play, finally see some live action. I believe this crowd will do what it takes to continue to get better each day. Looking forward to continuing that process on Monday. Big game next week.”
The Hawks won the last chapter of the series with South, 56-27, off U.S. 301 in Johnston County on Sept. 6, 2019. Triton has lost much of the personnel that produced 430 yards rushing on the road that night. The current group needs more time to mesh in a new pistol Wing-T.
“Just being able to practice,” Penny said about what was important in Week 2. “We’ve had eight days total as a team and a few of them were inside due to weather. We need to get more reps. South is very well-coached. They have a gunslinger (junior quarterback Chase Carroll). We have to eliminate alignment mistakes in the secondary and continue to rep on offense.”
Triton traveled to a land of giants to open 2021.
“Their offensive line was 6-8, 6-6, 6-5 and two at 6-3,” Penny said. “Defense about the same, but our boys didn’t back down.”
Knightdale has become fertile recruiting ground.
“Last year they sent a back (Trevion Cooley) to Louisville and a defensive tackle (Aeneas Peebles) to Duke,” Penny said. “Apparently, they have some more waiting.”
The Hawks had some standouts of their own on Friday.
“Amir Wynn, Malik McNeill, and Nate McKoy had outstanding games on defense,” Penny said. “They are an inside zone spread team. We did well against the run. They had some big plays in the passing game.
“Their defense is also big and they got after it. We knew how good they would be on defense. Impressive. But the quarterback surprised us, a transfer from Southeast Raleigh (Terron Simpson Jr.).”
Simpson ran for the Knights’ first touchdown and threw for two more.
Penny was pleased with the field position generated by the punting game.
“Spencer Herring had some major punts for us,” Penny said. “Lou Holtz said it’s never good when your punter is the MVP, but I was proud of him. Big punts — and he even dropped a short one inside the 20 with some nice backspin.”
The matchup with the Knights was a one-time deal in the COVID era as new nonconference contracts will start next season.
One positive aspect of the ongoing pandemic is that revised guidelines will allow over 800 fans to attend the South-Triton game, including a portion for the visitors.
Hopefully, the neighboring battle will give spectators something to see.