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Wilkes Central High School Athletics

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Eagles defense starting second year in 4-3

EAGLES DEFENSE STARTING SECOND YEAR IN 4-3

At the start of the 2015 season, the Wilkes Central defense switched from a 3-5 base set to a 4-3. The Eagles will be sticking with that base package again this year and Head Coach Ron Turner thinks that they’ll be more comfortable with the system the second time around. Wilkes Central gave up a Wilkes County-worst 328.5 yards per game in 2015, with more than 230 of those coming on the ground. But the Eagles return several key players, particularly up front, that will aim to lower those numbers this season. “We feel like, defense definitely starts up front and we have two defensive tackles that we are very excited about,” Turner said. “Obviously Dedric (Smith) and Grant Cowles, we feel very excited about them.” Smith, who was all-conference last season as both an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman, and Cowles are two of just 11 seniors on the Eagles’ varsity roster this year and the only two senior interior linemen. “We’ve got Dedric Smith down inside, who is hands-down — Dedric is a really strong kid and has been there for a couple years now playing on the defensive line,” Interim Head Coach Terry Johnson said. “He’s probably going to be the anchor there for us.” Fellow senior Billy Mitchell will line up on the outside as a defensive end. The Eagles have a couple of other options at end as well, including senior Dakota Hodges and juniors Joseph Rosales and Copeland Stone. Rosales was an all-conference honorable mention in 2015 as a sophomore. “We’ve got some young defensive ends that we feel very excited about also,” Turner added. In the middle, the Eagles will have to replace Will Jarvis who was their leading tackler in 2015. But Turner said they’ll have several options with some sophomores and juniors. “We’re going to be young at linebacker,” he said. “But we think we’ll get batter and better there.” Phillip Lambert started at linebacker as a sophomore last year and returns this season but will likely be used more on the offensive side of the ball, according to Johnson. Nathan Born is also a returning starter from last year and enters his senior year as one of the Eagles’ veteran defenders. Both Ethan Scott, who might also play as a defensive end, and Alex Martinez are sophomores that saw some action with the varsity squad last year. Wilkes Central typically kept opposing quarterbacks in check last season, allowing less than 95 passing yards per game and this year the Eagles will add some depth to their already athletic secondary. The Eagles have 11 players listed as either a defensive back or a safety on their preseason roster and that list includes seniors Justin Parsons, Jojo Horton and Terry Calhoun. “Justin Parsons has been a starter for us for a few years in the secondary and we plan on him being a big part of our defensive secondary,” Johnson said. “Terry Calhoun is a returning starter from last year and he made some big plays for us last year defensively — good speed, runs well and covers a lot of ground. John Durham played a little bit back there last year but we’re really pleased with the accolades he made last year, progressing up to the varsity, and it looks like he’ll be back there with Terry.’’ Johnson went on to say that Horton and Jasiah Ferguson will likely see some time at corner as well as Orion Mathis, who had a solid year there in 2015, and Shawn Nickens, who saw some varsity action late in the season. On Wednesday, the Eagles held their first — and only — scrimmage of the preseason with St. Stephens in Moravian Falls. Johnson admitted that they were playing a pretty “vanilla” defense for their first time out and he saw a few mistakes that he wasn’t pleased with, but nothing he didn’t think could be overcome. “We gave up a few plays but that’s stuff we can fix,” he said after the scrimmage. “We’ve got film now that we can look at. There was some confusion every now and then on defense, which you expect in the first scrimmage. But to get out there and hit other people — that was the great thing about today, we got to hit somebody other than ourselves.”

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