Winston-Salem Prep testing varsity waters this season
(pictured above: Charles E. Leftwich Jaland Tate is W-S Prep’s most versatile athlete.)
Building depth figures to be a decisive factor for newcomer Winston-Salem Prep in its inaugural season of varsity football. A year ago, the Phoenix got the most out of its 32-player roster and finished up at 8-2 while playing an all- junior varsity schedule.
Coach Lamont Scales acknowledged that the challenges his team will face at the varsity level will be much tougher than what Prep experienced as a junior varsity squad. An increase in roster size, he explained, will enhance Prep’s chances of being competitive.
“We’re a small school in Class 1-A, so we’re looking to build our numbers,” said Scales. “We’re going to need 47 to 50 players. Added depth will put us in a position where we won’t have so many people playing both ways like we did last year.”
If summer workouts are any indication, Scales could see an increase in roster size when preseason practice begins on Friday (Aug. 1). According to Scales, about 25 players showed up for summer workouts, which represents a huge turnaround from the summer of 2013, when only five players participated.
“We had some low numbers from the summer of 2013, but when it was time for try-outs, we had enough people to come out and we ended up with 32 players,” he said. “So, with the turnout we had from this summer’s workouts, it will hopefully have a trickle-down effect and we’ll have enough players to field a competitive varsity team for this fall.”
Entering this season, Prep is well-stocked at the skill positions and there’s an abundance of speed and quickness on both sides of the football. “We’re in good shape at the skill positions,” said Scales. “We have the personnel who have the capability of making plays when it’s time. If we can stay focused and execute, we’ll be fairly successful.”
The Phoenix will show multiple looks on offense. Up front, Traquan Conrad (6-4, 320) is the key cog on the offensive line. At quarterback John Leecost is a dual threat as a passer and runner. Leecost will get plenty of help from running backs Jacob Cobbs, Jaland Tate and wide receiver Ryan Palmer.
Tate is a game-changer who’s capable of scoring anytime he touches the ball. Whether he’s lined up in the backfield or at wide receiver, he’s a difficult one-on-one match-up for opposing defenses. Tate is equally productive as a defensive back and kick return specialist.
Defensively, Prep’s mobility could prove to be troublesome for the opposition. The Phoenix, who operates out of a 4-4 base set, allowed 10.2 points per game last season. Whether or not the defense can duplicate its 2013 showing remains to be seen. Conrad, Robert Neal, Juwan Ingram and Brandon Miller are stellar performers on the defensive line. In the secondary, Tate is joined by hard-hitting safeties Michael Sparrow and Leon Conrad.
“On our defense, we want aggressive players who can run,” said Scales. “But it’s also a matter of them learning to harness their aggressiveness and play sound, basic football. That means getting off blocks, tackling well and playing with discipline. Our job as coaches is to help our players to become responsible student-athletes. As they continue to learn about being responsible, winning will take care of itself. Everybody is looking forward to seeing how things turn out for the upcoming season.”