Prep Football: Davie notebook
This is the second of eight stories on area football practices.
Today: Davie County
Wednesday: North Rowan
By Mike London
MOCKSVILLE ó The Davie County team picture won’t look as scary as it does some years, but senior cornerback Perry James is one War Eagle who passes everyone’s eye test.
Lean, quick and strong at 6-0, 180 pounds and with burning coals for eyes, James is a legitimate 4.4 runner and one of the top 40 prospects in the state.
“What makes Perry special is he wants to make big plays,” Davie cornerbacks coach John Bullins said. “He wants to get that hit that dislodges a ball or make that interception.”
James is special enough that he’s already received a scholarship offer from East Carolina, and he’s on the list of every ACC school, some SEC schools and Notre Dame. His dream college, he says, is Tennessee.
The recruiting interest in James is intense, and this is for a guy who didn’t play a single down last season.
A wicked scar on his right shoulder is a reminder of the dislocation he suffered in the second round of the 2006 4AA state playoffs. Davie beat North Meck and Tennessee-bound back Daryl Vereen 14-11, but that night altered the course of James’ career.
He was back on the field the next Friday against Independence, shaking off the pain and with the damaged shoulder snapped back into place. Davie lost 40-19, but there were no thoughts of a long-term injury, and everyone assumed James, already a major star, had two more great seasons ahead of him.
But in the summer of 2007, trouble persisted with the shoulder, and when it became dislocated again at a Catawba camp, Davie coaches took a long look at the big picture.
Give Doug Illing and his staff credit. As badly as they wanted and needed James on the field, they advised corrective surgery that would be season-ending.
Illing calmly announced that James would miss his junior year, but the War Eagles looked forward to having him back as a senior.
“I wanted to play, but it hurt too bad, and we did what we needed to do,” James said. “It was hard to sit. It was hard to watch my teammates losing games by two or three points and them telling me they needed me. That’s what hurt the worst.
“I went to practice, I went to film study and I cheered for my teammates, but I guess it all got old after a couple of weeks. The one thing that kept me going was knowing I had one more year.”
Now that “one more year” is here, and James, who is feeling great, is ready to make up for lost time.
James started as a varsity freshman in 2005 in a great secondary that included Notre Dame’s Raeshon McNeil and Brevard’s ReShaun Parks. From the start, he was willing to stick his nose into a crowd, and he recovered three fumbles.
His sophomore year was a breakout. He picked off passes against West Rowan ó he took that one 40 yards for a TD ó and Starmount, but teams stopped throwing anywhere near him after that.
He still burned opponents on special teams, returning a punt for a TD against South Rowan and taking a kickoff 80 yards to the end zone against East Rowan.
Inserted on offense against Mount Tabor, he caught a fourth-quarter TD pass that forced overtime.
Great things were projected for his junior year, but the record book shows mostly blanks: no picks, no TDs, one scar.
And now one mission.
Bullins, who has another fine corner in Shyteek Brown and a solid backup in Brandon Walls is thrilled to have No. 9 back on patrol.
“When Perry was hurt he stayed very involved in the program and was here with us whenever he wasn’t rehabbing the shoulder,” Bullins said. “He’s very competitive, very coachable and a good student. I’ve had him in geometry class, so I know he works in the classroom.
“The one thing we can ask him to do more of us is to lead as a senior because these kids really look up to him.”James tested the shoulder the best way he knew how, by colliding with his cousin James Mayfield, Davie’s bruising, 215-pound running back, on the first practice in which contact was permitted.
“If I can hit Mayfield I can hit anybody,” James said with a smile. “Now I’m pumped for that first scrimmage. Can’t wait.”
CRUSHING COUSINS: Davie’s marquee offensive players in recent seasons have been quarterbacks and receivers, but with Davie breaking in new starters in the passing game, Mayfield is the horse the War Eagles will ride.
Mayfield, James, receiver Nick Bohannon (a junior who transferred from Forbush) and receiver Skeeter Montgomery are all cousins.
Mayfield banged for nearly 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, despite a bum ankle, and already has an offer from Akron.
Mayfield casually mentioned a 2,000-yard season was his primary individual goal, and no one disputes that possibility.
Davie’s O-line figures to be stronger than last year ó fiery former Appalachian State All-American Chad Groover is back coaching the unit after a year off to build a house ó and Mayfield, whose biggest single-night workload last season was 26 carries against East Meck in the playoffs, can expect quite a few more attempts.
And also more receptions.
“Last year, Garrett Benge (an East-West quarterback) would scramble out of trouble with his legs when we had to improvise,” offensive coordinator Barry Whitlock said. “This year, James has to be our legs, and when we get into trouble, we’ll dump it off to him.”
On top of everything else, look for Mayfield to step in at linebacker, a position he played ferociously as a sophomore, in key situations and in Davie’s annual playoff run.”I like linebacker, but I enjoy running back even more,” Mayfield said.
ZACH ATTACK: Zach Illing, the head coach’s son, takes over at QB as a senior.
While he lacks the wheels and arm strength of Benge, Illing has always performed admirably when he’s gotten a chance to get on the field.
Last season, he was 16-for-29 for 220 yards and two TDs, and it wasn’t all mopup duty in blowouts.
In a high-level game against Gretna (Va.) and in the playoff matchup with East Meck, Illing handled himself well under fire.
“The Illing kid will be fine,” his father joked, “as long as his dad leaves him alone.”
GREAT SCHEDULE: Davie’s schedule is a dream.
Three huge CPC rivals ó West Forsyth, North Davidson and Mount Tabor ó have to come to Mocksville, and Davie plays host to non-conference foes Watauga and West Rowan in marquee matchups that will be among the biggest games in western North Carolina the first two weeks of the season.
The schedule also features 1A power Thomasville and Charlotte Providence Day.
“We’re gonna have to bang some heads with that schedule we’ve got,” defensive coordinator Devore Holman said. “When that bye week does come (Sept. 26), we’ll need it to heal up.”
KEY MOVE: Holman said the seemingly minor tweak of linebackers Santana Arnold and Chris Sponaugle trading positions had yielded spectacular results.