Prep Football: TAB Davie
MOCKSVILLE — The bright orange towel hanging on the wall of the Davie County coaches office is dated Dec. 11, 2010.
That was the day, not so long ago, that Davie played for a state championship just up the road at Wake Forest and turned the Demon Deacons’ stadium into an orange ocean.
Sure, Davie didn’t fare well against Durham Hillside in the final, but the War Eagles already had made their point by fighting through North Davidson, Mount Tabor, High Point Central and Porter Ridge — four straight upsets — just to get there. That run serves as a reminder that a rural 4A school can succeed in football.
There’s a lot of tradition in Mocksville. Davie was one of the best in the state in 2004 when it lost to Fayetteville Jack Britt in a 4A semifinal to finish 14-1. Davie was 11-3 in 2005 and 12-2 in 2006.
Devore Holman was the defensive coordinator for all those strong teams. That explains why last season’s 4-7 in the first season that he followed his buddy Doug Illing as head coach stung so much. It hurt to go 4-7. Every time Holman has to say 4-7 out loud or answer a question about 4-7 you can see that it hurts a little more. He’s a 24/7 guy but not a 4-7 guy.
“This team has vowed that it’s not settling for 4-7 again, and I’m excited about that,” Holman said. “Some of our young puppies had to play before they were ready last season because of injuries, but they have matured and gotten stronger and tougher and they know what’s expected of them now.”
On paper, Davie, with its offensive leaders back, looks a lot more like 7-4 than 4-7, but the schedule is challenging.
Wins will be precious and hard-fought. Davie may be an underdog in as many as four of its six Central Piedmont Conference games, and it probably will be an underdog when it takes on 2A powerhouse North Rowan. West Rowan, Thomasville, Lexington and Page are the other four non-conference teams on Davie’s schedule, and none of those four are ever short on athletes.
“I’ve got to say our league is about as tough as any,” Holman said. “It’s not like we can overlook anybody on our schedule. We’ll have to play at a high level every Friday.”
The bottom line was Davie couldn’t win the close games last season. Holman says six plays were the difference between 4-7 and 8-3.
He’s not exaggerating. The five games that could’ve swung either way — Page, West Rowan, North Rowan, Reagan and West Forsyth — were all Davie losses.
Davie’s four victories came against Lexington, Thomasville, Parkland and R.J Reynolds, and all four of those games were lopsided. Davie actually outscored its opponents by 74 points (338-264) while going 4-7. That’s not easy to do.
Often it was special teams that bit Davie. A blocked punt for a touchdown helped do in the War Eagles when they were in good shape against North Rowan. A punt return for a touchdown changed Davie’s tussle at West Rowan.
Ironically, junior punter/kicker Jonn Young, who made six field goals and 32 PATs, is one of the state’s best and will be a college player. Davie just has to put the pieces in places around Young. Special teams — Davie has exotic names for those units, such as Homeland Security for the hands team — have been the team’s focus in the preseason.
Quarterback Parker Correll is back to direct Davie’s wide-open offense, which generally will feature just one running back and four receivers.
Correll had a nice statistical junior season with 1,234 passing yards, 16 TDs and just five interceptions. Eight of his TD passes came in the four games Davie won.
“He does a good job managing our offense,” Holman said. “He’s a wrestler and a real physical guy. He’s a good runner — he’s definitely not slow — and we’ve tried to coach him to dodge a few more guys instead of just trying to run people over.”
Running back Cade Carney was the CPC Player of the Year as a freshman. He didn’t repeat as a sophomore, partly because Davie was 4-7 and partly because he got hurt.
In the West Forsyth game in Week 8, Carney rolled an ankle. He had it taped and went right back in the game. Then he rolled the other ankle blocking in pass protection.
With zero healthy ankles, the phenom sat out Davie’s romps against Parkland and Reynolds, games in which he probably would’ve put up major numbers. He finished his season with 195 carries, 1,031 yards and 13 rushing TDs. That’s good, but he’s more of a 1,500-yard guy than a 1,000-yard guy, and he could return to that level as a junior.
Carney is talented and has ACC offers. Davie’s offensive mantra is 4 yards per play, and Carney, with any kind of blocking, will almost always get 4.
“Cade has worked hard in the offseason and has improved his speed and strength,” Holman said. “He’s a leader of this team by example.”
Carney sometimes takes Wildcat snaps to change things up and passed for two TDs last year. He also had two receiving TDs.
Cameron Coleman is the other notable returning rusher. He carried 83 times for 456 yards and six TDs. He delivered 100-yard outings in both games Carney missed.
If Carney stays healthy, Coleman will be used mostly as the slot receiver.
“He’s just a tough, old-school, hard-nosed football player,” Holman said.
The receiving corps is still being sorted out, but Holman expects Ben Ellis to lead it. Ellis had three TD catches, all in CPC games, a year ago.
There are some experienced returners on the offensive line. Will Myers, who broke an ankle in the non-conference portion of last season, is fully healthy. Luke Pratapas, Travis McDaniel and Cameron Duke have a lot of experience,
“My concern with the o-line is we’re real thin,” Holman said. “We’ve got just seven kids for the five spots, so we can’t have injuries there.”
Davie has more room for defensive improvement than offensive. Davie allowed 40 points three times and lost 31-27 to West Rowan.
When you score 27 against West, it has to be enough to win.
Davie’s search for a defensive upgrade will include the drastic step of using some of its offensive studs on defense. That explains why Carney’s name appears on the greaseboard as the rover.
There are some building blocks on defense, including returning linebackers James Boyle and Christian Launius. Launius, a terror as a sophomore, could be an All-CPC guy.
“He’s a good player —just don’t ask me to spell his last name,” Holman joked.
The secondary also has experience with returning corner Tre Redmond and big safety George Mitchell (6-3, 195). Junior Avery Williford is a guy to keep an eye on.
“Some new faces, but we feel pretty good about that group,” Holman said.
All the faces on the defensive line are new, and that’s probably the single biggest area of concern.
“We’ve got some kids who have seen spot play, but none of ‘em have any real experience,” Holman said.
It sounds like Davie will play a lot of 35-31 type games. This season the War Eagles plan to win their share of the close ones.