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September 1, 2014
2014 Smithfield Packers Preview
Rivers District, Class 4A, Region 4A South
As a team, the Packers threw for only 608 yards, a number that'll need to increase in order for them to be more productive on offense. Three guys are vying for the quarterback job with juniors Lowell Patron (6-1, 180) and Nick Turner (5-11, 165) as well as senior Devin Williams (5-11, 160), who could also see time at receiver. While King and Pierce are the two playmakers most everyone will be watching, Smithfield returns 10 offensive starters, one of which is senior tight end/h-back James Green (6-0, 195). A three-year starter, Green had nearly 300 yards receiving and 3TD's last year.
Also figuring into the mix at receiver will be seniors Nick Wells (6-3, 180) and Mario Bibbins (5-10, 160) as well as sophomore Jaquan Ridley (6-0, 185). Another sophomore, Will Robinson (5-9, 190), could occasionally spell King running the ball. On the offensive line, the Packers have seven bodies for five positions with seniors Collin Todd (6-1, 260), Jay Burke (6-1, 265) and Will Brayshaw (6-4, 240); juniors Mason McCarthy (6-5, 285), Cole Manfred (6-0, 195) and Ross Manfred (6-0, 270); and sophomore Raekwon Batten (6-0, 215).
To go with 10 offensive starters returning, Smithfield has 10 defensive starters back, according to Harrell. Pierce and fellow sophomore Jack Darden (6-2, 215) should easily combine for double-digit sacks from the d-end spots. Meanwhile, Todd, Brayshaw and Ross Manfred will handle the duties at d-tackle. Green, who had 71 tackles in 2013, and junior Ben Jones (5-10, 195) are sure tacklers at linebacker. Junior Will Robinson (5-10, 190) is slated to play the weak outside 'backer spot.
What Smithfield wants to see is someone in the secondary show the knack for finding the football against the pass like Pierce and Darden do up front against the run. Seniors Antonio Shaw (5-9, 165) and Devin Simmons (5-9, 170) are the projected starters at corner, while Ridley and Wells hold down things at safety. They could do some mixing and matching with lineups, possibly using King at DB, moving Green from linebacker to safety, and even playing Pierce at outside 'backer.
Clearly, the Packers will have to get consistency and mistake-free play from the quarterback position to think about finishing higher than their projection of third behind Lafayette and Tabb in the Bay Rivers District. Furthermore, if they become a turnover-prone offense and the defense shows weaknesses they can't hide, the Packers could have another late-season slide like the one they experienced last year. The defense has to make a jump up this year or else it'll be another year without being in the playoffs.
In seven of the past nine seasons, Smithfield has finished with a winning record, so last year was more of an aberration their fans believe with a bunch of underclassmen seeing the field. They'll still have a host of sophomores seeing extended minutes, but they are now more seasoned and very capable of getting them above the .500 mark with a playoff berth in Group 4A. Now, once in the postseason provided they get there, it'll be a challenge dealing with the '757' area teams with great speed and better depth like Phoebus, Lake Taylor, Heritage, Norcom and King's Fork.
Matthew Hatfield has covered football and basketball since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to listen to him on High School Sports Talk Saturdays at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.
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