By MIKE DUPREZ
The high school football season is just weeks away and Randolph County teams are getting prepared. In the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the strengths and possible pitfalls of the non-conference schedules.
This week, we'll check in on Eastern Randolph and Randleman. Both play in the PAC-7 and have five non-conference games. There is ample opportunity for both to have strong starts.
The Wildcats, coming off a 10-1 season that saw them win the conference championship, have a potentially tough opener as they seek to replace top players such as tailback Na’Hiem Lilly and linebacker John Maness. They take on Eastern Alamance, which went 10-2 a year ago and reached the 3-A semifinals. EA did lose a standout quarterback but returns a 1,200-yard rusher.
One of the key returnees for ER is quarterback Stratton Barwick.
Eastern Randolph won last year’s game 34-6.
Next up for the Wildcats is Asheboro. The Wildcats won last year’s game 49-7 and will be favored again this year. Asheboro was 1-9 last season and is still rebuilding.
Then the Wildcats play Walkertown, a new opponent. Walkertown was 1-9 last season. Following that is a game with Williams, a 3-A team that really pushed ER last season. The Wildcats came away with an 8-6 win. Williams lost its quarterback and top runner to graduation, so that bodes well for the Wildcats.
Finally, the Wildcats take on West Stanly, a team they trounced 33-3 last season. This one should play out as win for ER.
So another 5-0 beginning looks probable. At worst, the Wildcats should be 4-1.
Last year was tough for the Tigers. Their long domination of the PAC-7 got brought to a halt due to the double whammy of graduation and injuries. It all added up to a 4-7 record.
And that first loss was a 20-7 shocker to Asheboro. The Tigers couldn't handle Blue Comets wide receiver Hakemme Butler and had trouble getting anything to click on offense. Chances are that won't happen again.
Then comes a game with Central Davidson, which mauled the Tigers 62-33. But the circumstances are different now. Central Davidson’s unusual double-wing attack was hard to defend. But the top two running backs graduated and the coach, Clayton Trivett, left for Salisbury. This one should go Randleman’s way.
Then the Tigers play Montgomery Central, a team they barely beat 20-14 in overtime. That team won just once. The nod should go to Randleman and by a bigger margin.
Randleman’s fourth non-conference opponent is a new one, B.L. Smith out of Greensboro. The Golden Eagles were 4-6 last year and play in a 3-A conference.
The Tigers’ final non-conference foe is North Stanly, a team they edged 31-28 last season. North Stanly lost its quarterback and top runner to graduation.
Of course, the biggest thing for Randleman is to stay healthy. If the Tigers can do that, they could sweep the non-conference slate. That would give them plenty of momentum for the conference games.