Spiders set to open 2021-22 season Friday at Jay M Robinson
While the recent stretch of 90+ degree days may have browned the grass of the Carolinas, the Concord Spiders were using that same heat to forge steel in preparation for the upcoming season. The hot days only ramped up the intensity during summer camp, something the coaching staff was pleased to see.
“We worked hard this summer, in the heat and the rain and whatever else came our way.” said head coach Marty Paxton. “I think we got better. But there’s only one way to find out.”
“We’ll see what happens when the pads come on,” said defensive coordinator Ryan Crowder. The Concord assistant is hardly the first football coach to make that statement, but there’s a reason for that: it’s true.
“Players can look great in 7-on-7 drills, they can put up numbers in the weight room or in sprints,” explained Paxton. “But you never really find out about a football player until we’re out here in helmets and shoulder pads -- until we’re actually playing football.”
Following a summer of conditioning, the Spiders opened their 2021-22 season with a scrimmage against Hickory that provided the coaching staff with more answers as to who will lead the way this fall.. As opening day nears, the identity of this year’s squad has started to take shape,
Defensively, the Spiders are anchored by Jameson Hackett at nose tackle and Elijah Smith on the edge. Hackett and Smith have the potential to cause matchup problems for opponents, while returning starters Joey Reali and Will Howard give Concord plenty of options up front. Jarrell Smith, Tre Williams and Jay Nichols will also be part of what looks to be a deep rotation.
Linebacker Tristan Pitman will team-up with fellow senior Brenden Crowder at the outside linebacker “spider” position. Pitman was one of the team’s standouts this summer and looks to emerge as a leader of the 2021 Spider defense. Crowder is coming off a successful junior season and the duo is bolstered by the return of junior Benny Hope.
Inside, David Irvin currently leads the way, but there are several other names to keep an eye on this fall. My’kell Morris has impressed over the summer, as has Elijah Horton. Sophomore Keyon Phillips saw the field as a freshman and figures to make a bigger impact this coming season. Another positive from summer camp has been the development of sophomore Ethan Treadway, whose strength and athleticism may force coaches to find a place for him.
The secondary will be led by safety Kadin Presutti and cornerbacks Shimill Flake and Antonio Jackson. David Chavez Bibliano is coming off strong summers and appears poised to make an impact at corner, while Nylon Fair Steele has the speed to run with anybody in the conference. Keyon Phillips could see time in the secondary as well.
Offensively, it starts with senior quarterback Zack Jenkins. After taking the vast majority of snaps as a junior, Jenkins’ second year as a starter should allow Paxton to go deeper into the playbook this fall.
“Zack’s really blossomed into a leader for us,” said Paxton..”We need him to continue to step up because our guys will follow him.”
Concord has plenty of options as they look to replace graduated seniors Jacori James and Kevin Rodgers in the backfield. Keveus Phillips gained valuable experience backing up James a season ago, while Benny Hope’s return adds another ball carrier to the mix. In addition,Presutti, Flake, and Keyon Phillips -- the younger brother of Keveus -- all carried the football from the slot last year and should be options in the running game once again. The younger Phillips will back-up Jenkins at QB.
Wide receiver Kobe Watts-Williams leads an experienced group that also includes Presutti, Flake, and Phillips. Tight ends Tristan Pitman and David Irvin should be valuable contributors to the offense as well. Fair-Steele is looking to break out and earn playing time this fall after putting in time as a reserve last season. Sophomore Damichael Lyerly, also a talented basketball player, impressed in the scrimmage against Hickory and could add more athleticism to the offensive attack.
Despite the abundance of returners at the skill positions, however, the Concord offense will only go as far as the offensive line takes them. Fortunately for the 2021 Spiders, the entire line returns with experience and depth. Caius Hartsell -- a 3rd team preseason all-state selection -- anchors a unit that Paxton has called “the heart of our offense.” The line also includes returning starters Bryant Cruz, Bryson Overcash, Joseph Reali, and Will Howard. Jackson Joseph started a couple games as a freshman and provides depth inside, while junior.Justin Garland is the top reserve outside.
The 2021 season gets underway officially when the Spiders visit Jay M Robinson on August 20.
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