It’s a time of transition for Winston-Salem Prep football.
In its first year, the Phoenix played a strictly junior varsity schedule as preparation for 2014, when the school will embark on its first full season of varsity competition.
Prep more than held its own this season, finishing the regular season with a 8-2 record and winning games by an average margin of nearly 22 points. The only blemishes were losses to High Point Andrews (44-14) and Forsyth Country Day (26-14).
“I’m pleased with how things turned out in this first year,” said Coach Lamont Scales. “We had 32 players on the roster and we’re hoping that more will join us for next season. There’s a need to add to our numbers so we can continue to grow. One of our goals for next season is to build depth so we won’t have so many players who play both ways.”
Offensively, Prep relied on the Wing-T, but also showed multiple looks. Linemen Dequan Speas, Traquan Conrad, Terrance Love and Jaiquan Ruth paved the way for the offense to average 31.9 points a game. In the backfield, quarterback John Leecost and running backs Jaland Tate and Cobb provided much of the scoring punch for WSP.
“We knew we’d be good, but never thought the season would turn out as well as it did,” said Leecost. “As a team, we went beyond our own expectations. When we started the season with a win over North Stokes (42-0), we got the feeling that it could be a very good season. As the weeks went by, we continued to bond as brothers.”
On defense, the Phoenix, which held opponents to 10.2 points per game, operated from a 4-4 set with variations. Safety Michael Sparrow and cornerback Tate were the ringleaders in the secondary and Nijay Patterson had a productive season at linebacker. Robert Neal Jr. and Denzel Parchment delivered solid performances on the defensive line.
“I’m thankful that we played an all-jayvee schedule in our first year,” said Scales. “This was a season where the coaches and the players got to know each other. The players know what our expectations are. As coaches, we have a much better feel for the skill level we have at every position.”
This year’s success at the junior varsity level gives Prep’s players plenty of reason to be optimistic for next season. While no one is predicting that the Phoenix will win a conference championship, there’s a general sentiment among the players that opponents shouldn’t look at their newness and assume that they’ll have an easy time.
“We’re only going to get better,” said Cobbs, who rushed for 10 touchdowns. “I’m hoping that we’ll get a larger number of bigger players who will come out and play on the offensive line.”
Sparrow has no doubts that it won’t take long for the Phoenix to make its presence felt at the varsity level when the season kicks off next year.
“All of us are looking forward to next year,” he said. “We’ll come ready to play, ready to compete. I think it will be a mistake for other teams to look past us. Don’t sell us short.”