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Chess, not checkers – RRHS football thrives in a new phase | Local

After defeating North Nash on April 29, 2021 with a 9-0-0 record, Roanoke Rapids Football Club coach Craig Jean hinted that his program, known in the east for its approach to scoring and the mercy rule, may well meet the requirements for a change in disposition .

In the end, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association basically completed the job of moving its member schools into the next stage of reorganization, which meant the Jackets would trade their boarding passes at the NC 1A/2A conference for other travel documents.

For example, those who talk about life at the Big East 2A/3A conference, a tradition-rich all-season test with roots in Nash County.

And with the upcoming replacement, the coach figured, certain difficulties.

Only the Black and Golds never stumbled on their new path, finishing the fall and spring seasons with a 29-10-2 record before landing a trio of players on the North Carolina Football Coaches Association’s 2A All-State 12th All-State team. -Team Region 6th and 13th on the All-Conference list.

That’s not to mention Jin, who won the Region 6 Coach of the Year award this spring for his work.

Yes, the people of Hamilton Street seem to know a thing or two about life on the field – if you like to win, of course.

The Lady Jackets (16-4), a mix of leadership and youthful skills, started the spring in a rush, winning 10 of 12 games en route to a second-place regular season finish in the Big East.

The group also overcame their share of adversity by finding a way to replace sophomore linebacker Kamdın Zhan, who missed the final seven competitions of the season with a knee injury.

“It’s just a good group of athletes going through school right now,” Jean said of the group, while also praising the contributions of underseen heroes Jenna Gross, Hannah Skinner, Ella King and Suzanne Davis. “There’s still a lot left, but this older group that just graduated from high school was definitely special – they’re just damn athletic and competing right.”

If anything, it can be said that the group has functioned throughout the season as a textbook definition of a united front – the one that captured the Big Eastern Conference tournament crown and brought individual post-season honors to seniors Cameron Neal, Logan Abram, Riley Wade and Davis. as well as Skyler Wade, Gene, and freshman forward Casey Neal.

Through any lens, the men’s standings were a rough picture, defined in large part by a 20-day period in October, when the Jackets posted a 6-0-2 record against the likes of the Northern Nash, Louisburg, Bunn. , Rocky Mount and Nash Central, thus correcting a 6-4 start and clearing the way for a sixth straight postseason bid.

“We knew we couldn’t lose,” Jin said of the company’s daily encounter with high stakes. “It was a tough competition and we played it right away and got busy… drawing a draw when we couldn’t lose and we should have gotten it.”

And most nights at the forefront was the senior duo of forward Coleman Neal and goaltender Hunt Qualls, who worked hard to keep Buzz City on the right side of danger.

Helping the Jackets to a 13-6-2 overall record, Neal scored 41 goals and scored nine more, while the lean Qualls led the team in saves with a staggering 381 shots on goal.

Not if you ask Jean, who happily discussed her work.

“A playoff goal… when he turned from a corner from midfield, carried the ball for about 75 yards and dunked,” the coach said of Neil, who scored his 65th career goal in a 3-1 loss to Heide Trask in his debut. – NCHSAA 2A postseason round robin. “He had so many moments like that where he just flew out of midfield and attacked the whole defence.”

So did a certain net keeper, whose highest mark between the rails proved to be an ever-evolving standard.

“Qualls had some crazy saves, my God,” Jean said of the No. 13, who also scored in a crazy shootout against the Northerners on 25 October. he does his thing there and he doesn’t have to worry about, you know, telling him every little step and stuff like that.”

That doesn’t mean, of course, that Neil and Qualls were the sole reason for last fall’s prosperity, as evidenced by the performances of Balmauris Gonzalez, Douglas Merritt and Logan Williams, all of whom also earned spots in the NCSCA All-Region. 6 – in addition to Hunter Sparks, who was selected as a member of the Big East 2A/3A All-Conference team at the end of the season.

Last but not least

So, dear reader, what now that every team in the Big East 2A/3A planning year has taken notes on the path of Buzz City?

To be honest, probably not that much.

Because while Roanoke Rapids has Jean, who has led the program to a 161-61-9 record since 2015, she has what other schools don’t have – a humble team leader dedicated to the full cycle of player development and a lot of ups and downs. associated with it.

This is chess, not checkers, and the results speak for themselves.

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