After years of declining enrollment numbers, Richland Northeast received word it is moving to Class 3A.
The move for football won’t be until 2014, which means the Cavaliers have a challenging season ahead in its 4A farewell campaign.
“The numbers crunch we’ve been having for years has really caught up with us,” RNE coach Jay Frye said. “We’ll probably have more guys playing both ways than we’ve ever had. Lack of depth is our biggest concern. It’s not an ideal situation, especially at the 4A level.”
The most seasoned area on the team is the offensive line, where all five projected starters return with varying degrees of experience. The anchors include junior center De’vonta Hardy (5-10, 210) and senior tackles Josh Junious (5-10, 245) and Zaaviea Blyther-Wright (6-4, 275). Junior Glenn Brown (6-0, 275) and junior Norman Wallace (6-4, 330) are the guards.
With a new quarterback and new receivers, Frye has opted to go old school on offense.
“We’re going back to our traditional I-formation offense for the first time in long while,” he said. “We want to control the ball and keep people off balance with a throwing game. We feel we can thrown the ball effectively with play action.”
The new quarterback is junior Simeon Kelley (6-3, 215) who played last season at defensive end.
“Simeon’s a good looking athlete, and he’s worked extremely hard,” Frye said. “He’ll have some growing pains, but he’s already developed into a leader.”
The running back spots will feature senior Jaquari Blunt and junior Quinten Burrell at tailback with senior Tavar Stafford and junior Corey Benjamin at fullback. Blunt is the only back returning with varsity carries on his resume.
The top returning receiver is senior B.J. Dickerson, who caught 13 passes for 136 yards a year ago.
The defense will be junior dominated, but there is fair level of experience.
Benjamin, who had four sacks last season at end, moves to outside linebacker. Senior Brien Washington (54 tackles) moves from safety to outside linebacker. Malik Scott (42 tackles) returns at cornerback. Nose guard Tymondre Isaac and end Tyler Sims are the seasoned hands up front. Junior linebacker Kenneth Furtick gained experience as a sophomore. Sophomore T.J. Brunson is another player to watch up front.
Frye said speed and aggressiveness should be the defensive callings cards.
“We’re in a position where we’ll have to use our best 11 players on either side, regardless of size or speed,” Frye said. “Hopefully, we’ll stay healthy and have time to develop some depth as the season goes along.”