Eagles, Bears scrimmage as season nears
Chatham Central and Western Harnett, each with new quarterbacks at the helm, scrimmaged Wednesday evening at Chatham Central a little more than a week before the games will count.
The Bears, on Saturday morning at Village Christian, and the Eagles, in the Harnett County Jamboree at Triton tonight, will get one more shot to go against live opponents before the season starts on Aug. 23. The two-hour session at Bear Creek allowed both sides to run quite a bit of their playbooks with sophomore Austin Speck at quarterback for Western Harnett and junior Rodney Van De Walker quarterbacking the Bears. Speck and Van De Walker are returning varsity players, but not returners at quarterback.
The Eagles, prepping for their first campaign in the newly-created 3A Two Rivers Conference, moved the ball well on the ground and through the air for most of the scrimmage.
Speck, who was a cornerback as a freshman, showed mobility and good accuracy. With Speck and a number of talented receivers, Western Harnett head coach Larry Brock, who ran a pounding wing-T offense for his first two seasons with the Eagles, is shifting his playbook to more shotgun and multiple-receiver plays.
"I like running the ball, and I promise we will still run the ball quite a bit, but this year I think we're going to have better options to move the ball if we throw it a little more," Brock said.
Chatham Central struggled moving the ball with its first 10-play possession but ran it well, with Van De Walker making good decisions on option pitch plays around the ends, on its second series.
Wing back/receiver Zack Burke and fullbacks T.C. Carnes and Andrew Jurden were the strongest rushers for the Bears. Burke, a senior, scored off a pitch on the second Bear possession, then again taking a pitch for a 65-yard sprint down the sideline in the second half of the scrimmage, which was more game-like with downs and changes of possession.
Fullback Laron Gilchrist was Western Harnett's dominant ball carrier, going for three touchdown runs in only a few carries on the night. Gilchrist, who's bigger than most of the defensive linemen and linebackers he'll face, yet can run away from them if he gets into the open field, ran for 13 touchdowns last season.
"I thought we executed well," Brock said, "now we'll get into the film and look at it."
Chatham Central improved by two wins last season under head coach Bob Pegram, finishing 4-8 overall and 2-5 in the Yadkin Valley. The Bears get to open with three straight Friday nights at home; starting by hosting Wake Christian on Aug. 23.
Western Harnett, 3-8 overall and 2-5 in the Cape Fear Valley last year, hosts Southern Lee on opening night - but in a non-conference contest now. The Eagles are joining Corinth Holders, Smithfield-Selma, South Johnston, Triton and Cleveland in the Two Rivers Conference.