GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — With Touchdown Friday just days away, many of our area teams are making final preparations before their season openers.
On Wednesday, two crosstown rivals continued to make final touches on their game plans.
J.H. Rose is one of those teams. The Rampants graduated much of their offensive line in 2021 along with star players Kevin Hamilton (WR) and Wade Jarman (QB). However, age is just a number in head coach Will Bland’s eyes as he prepares his team for its first game of the season against Hunt on Friday.
“We are really going to look at our offensive line because they are very young. But I think they are well prepared. We have some great coaches on staff that know how to prepare the kids,” said Bland.
The Rampants are coming off a strong spring season. The team went a perfect 5-0 in conference play and 6-1 overall. Lee County handed the team its first loss of the year in round one of playoffs.
Bland and his coaching staff are looking to build on the previous season this year. That starts with Week 1.
“I want to go out there and do what we’ve been doing in the first two scrimmages, keep building on that,” said Bland. “I expect the defense to hold them under 20 [points] and on offense, it’s our goal to make sure we score the first points.”
A key player expected to have offensive success this year for the Rampants is returning running back Michael Allen. The N.C. State commit tore his meniscus during the second week of the spring season. Now, he’s healthy and ready to make an impact on the field.
“I feel great. I feel confident. I am extremely excited to play this game,” said Allen. “I feel like all of these boys out here, we have worked really hard. We have prepared, so, I’m just really excited.”
Allen is a rising senior who is also expected to be a leader on the well-linked team. He tells 9OYS he values all his teammates, no matter what side of the ball they are on.
“We’ve got some dogs on defense. I’m excited to see how the defense plays and what we can do on the offensive side,” said Allen.
This fall, the new North Carolina high school conference alignment goes into play. J.H. Rose will now face six other teams in the Big Carolina 3A/4A. That includes New Bern, Havelock, Jacksonville, Northside-Jacksonville, South Central and long-time rival, D.H. Conley.
“It’s tough, but I’m excited to see what we can do with it. There’s a lot of teams that I’ve actually been wanting to play,” said Allen. “I’m extremely excited to see what we can do with it.”
Across town, D.H. Conley was hard at work Wednesday preparing for its opening game against Laney.
“We’ve got a great opponent coming in here. That’s what’s exciting about it. We are going to find out who we are,” said Nate Conner, D.H. Conley’s head coach. “We really respect Laney. I think they have shown well on film from what we’ve been able to see. It’s going to be fun to see how we match up early in the year and see how we grow after this game.”
Conley is looking to build on its previous season where they went 4-2 in conference and 5-2 overall.
For many of the area’s teams, this will be the first time playing a normal fall season since 2019. It’s something coaches, players and fans alike are excited about.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to play on a Friday night. It’s fun to be back here in the Fall playing a game,” said Conner. “It’s hard to believe it’s here so quick, but these boys have been working really hard all summer and I’m excited for them to be in a game situation. We had some good scrimmages, and I’m excited about getting in a game, four quarters and seeing how we hold up.”
Both D.H. Conley and J.H. Rose will play their first games of the season Friday night. Both matchups are set to be featured in our season debut of Touchdown Friday. Tune in to WNCT at 11:05 p.m. for the game recaps.