Athens Drive Jaguars
Last year: 4-8 (4-3), lost to Southern Durham 8-7 in the first round of the 4-A playoffs
All-Conference players graduated: WR/ATH Phillip Barren, OL Steve Kotnik, RB Darius Williams
All-Conference players returning: (from PAC-6 Conference) OL Rob Crisp, S Pete Singer
Athens Drive may reconsider changing its initials to THS, as in Transfer High School. Coach Jeff Smouse has said he's never had this many transfers in one offseason.
One player moved in from Hawaii, another from Wyoming, a third from Kentucky and still another relocated from the far-away land of Holly Springs. Then came the two most important transfers in future N.C. State players Robert Crisp and Pete Singer.
The new infusion of talent combined with those coming back means not only can Athens improve its 4-8 record from last year and return to the playoffs — it's now a Tri-9 champion contender.
In the final non-conference game last year, Athens lost three starters to injury. It set the tone for the rest of the year, as injuries kept new faces entering the lineup.
At one point, the Jaguars had a starting linebacker who had never played football and a third-string quarterback behind center.
Despite all this, Athens still managed to make the playoffs, and were one acrobatic Tony Creecy catch on a two-point conversion away from toppling the 3-seed in the 4-A playoffs.
Now with the addition of Crisp and Singer, the Jags are receiving help at some of their must vulnerable positions.
Some experts have said Robert Crisp, an absolute MOUNTAIN of a man at 6'8 and 300 pounds, was the best player in the state last year. Without him, Athens has a questionable offensive line size-wise (three guys under 6-feet). With him, the Jags appear huge (three guys over 6'2).
Offense hasn't been a problem in quite some time under Jeff Smouse. Athens averaged 25.6 points per game last year, the third-best in the conference. However, it also had the second-worst defense, giving up 26.6.
If Crisp can play some defensive line, which he's been known to do, he will have a tremendous impact on games. Couple that with a small, but hard-hitting safety like Singer in secondary, and Athens could see a considerable drop in points allowed.
If there's one thing Athens has done well lately, it's having
a strong quarterback-wide receiver tandem (see DeMuro-Kornegay). With Ross Snotherly and Phillip Barren now graduated, it's time for the next classmates to step up.
Junior quarterback Ben Snotherly returns after starting a handful of games last year when his brother Ross went down. Snotherly might not be the most proven quarterback in the conference, but with good size (6'2) a strong arm (673 yards, four TD's) and good mobility (163 rushing yards, three TD's) — he may be one of the better prospects.
Wideout Louis Wilder, also a junior, has great size (6'3) and athleticism. Even while suffering from a case of the sophomore dropsies, Wilder is still the leading returning Tri-9 receiver with 605 yards and four touchdowns.
In the run game, Kyree Greene was last year's third running option, but still totaled 258 yards on the ground.
Snotherly, Greene and Wilder make for a strong trio of offensive difference makers on a team that's known for its offensive output. If Crisp, Singer and the other transfers solidfy their units, Athens has the makings of something special this year — Fuquay be warned.
Athens Drive's Schedule:
|Aug. 28||@ Enloe|
|Sept. 11||Green Hope|
|Sept. 25||@ Middle Creek|
|Oct. 2||Lee County|
|Oct. 9||@ Cary|
|Oct. 16||Panther Creek|
|Oct. 23||@ Fuquay-Varina|
|Nov. 6||@ Holly Springs|
|Nov. 13||NCHSAA Playoffs|