Cavalier defense sets tone in last scrimmage
A week before hosting Western Harnett to kick off the regular season, Southern Lee hosted Hoke County for a scrimmage Friday evening. If being ready for the games to count was all about intensity and speed, the Cavaliers and Bucks are both set to go.
On the Cavalier side, the defense set the tone and stayed impressive most of the night.
In alternating 10-play series to begin the scrimmaging, Southern Lee's defense repeatedly broke into the Buck backfield, either shutting down Hoke County's shotgun option running plays or forcing errant passes throughout the first two times Hoke had the ball. Conner Showalter, a returning starter at linebacker, intercepted a deep, but under thrown, pass down the left sideline during the second Hoke series.
Hoke County's defense was almost as dominant the first two times the Cavalier offense came on. The Bucks, 2-9 last year and 1-4 in the Southeastern Conference, are being led by new head coach Tom Paris, who was Southern Lee's head coach through the 2012 season preceding current Cavalier coach Don Simon.
Southern Lee's offense moved the ball in its third series, mainly with quarterback Ishois Tymes connecting with Ryan Holmes on a 35-yard catch and run.
Alternating varsity and JV units on the field, the last part of the scrimmage was played with downs being kept and possessions starting on the opponent's 30-yard line. For the most part, both defenses kept looking stronger.
"We have a pretty special group," Simon said of his defense. "We're pretty fast all over the field and our guys are beginning to tackle well, which is something we've been stressing for two years now and we're starting to understand it."
Defensive end Garrett Wilson, who's committed to a scholarship offer from Wake Forest primarily for his long-snapping ability on special teams, and nose tackle Michael Chesney were getting stops up the middle. Off the ends, Jeremiah Jones, Sergio Gardner and Isaiah Williams ended a number of Buck plays with tackles for losses.
The best Cavalier offensive stretch of the scrimmage started from a 2nd-and-long situation. Tymes hit Donte Jennings over the middle for a 15-yard pass play. On the next snap, Tymes couldn't find a receiver and took off for an 11-yard run and a first down. Patrick Bunnell capped the drive with a two-yard push over the goal line.
Tymes, a sophomore, is the new starting quarterback for the Cavs. He showed the ability to throw accurately and decide not to throw into a dangerous spot, then turning those plays into gains with his speed, versus Hoke.
The energy of an aggressive Cavalier defense is something which can even carry over to the Cavalier offense, Simon said.
"It's contagious, period, when a defense plays well, the pressure is taken off the offense and often times, the offense can open up more and just play," he said. "Plus, it's exciting for the kids, everyone on the team, when everyone sees a couple big plays by the defense."
Simon's said throughout preseason camp a lot about this team, in many ways naturally, is well ahead of entering his first season with Southern Lee last August. There's always plenty to go over in the first game week, though.
Southern Lee prevailed 23-6 at Western Harnett in last season's opener.
"(Western Harnett) is an athletic group. We saw a little of them at (the Harnett County Jamboree," Simon said. "They look a lot bigger, a lot more athletic than a year ago. It'll be a good test, a good opener for both teams."