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FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Daunting tasks await county teams in Friday night openers

By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News

 

There’s no easing into the season for Alamance County’s high school football teams.

There are four games in the county Friday night, and these season openers are ripe with notable storylines.

One of those involves two Burlington schools when Cummings High School goes to Williams High School in a highly-anticipated matchup at Burlington Memorial Stadium.

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More on that in a bit.

 

Let’s start with Eastern Alamance, which had the best credentials among county teams last year. The Eagles racked up a 10-2 record, losing only in its opener and in the fourth round of the Class 3-A state playoffs.

“Our success last year doesn’t have anything to do with this year,” said coach John Kirby,

Eastern football coach John Kirby during a special recognition by Mebane’s city council last year.

who has six starters back on offense and three on defense. “We’ve got to replace some really good players. But we’ve got some good players now.”

Eastern Alamance opens at home against Eastern Randolph, which topped the Eagles to start last season.

Both teams ended up as No. 1 regional seeds in their respective classes. Eastern Randolph is a Class 1-A team under veteran coach Burton Cates, a Graham resident.

Eastern Randolph coach Burton Cates.

As much as this Eastern Randolph-Eastern Alamance game looks like a showdown, it could turn out to be a mild assignment in comparison to what the Eagles encounter across the first month of the season. They also have games vs. Southern Alamance, at Northern Guilford, and at Reidsville to get their season going.

 

  • Western Alamance has a challenging task after an unusually rough season.

The Warriors, who’ve been a program of considerable stability for more than a decade under coach Jeff Snuffer, get started at home by taking on perennial state power Reidsville.

Western Alamance had a 4-6-1 record last year. That included a 0-3-1 mark vs. in-county schools.

 

  • Neighboring schools meet when Southern Alamance goes to Graham.

It will be the debut for Graham coach Bobby Houston Sr., a former NFL player after competing collegiately for North Carolina State.

Graham was 4-5 last year. Now, the more things change the more they remain the same for the Red Devils. They have their fourth different coach in five-season span.

Southern Alamance, which moved back up to Class 4-A last year, is coming off a second-place conference finish. The Patriots went 8-3 last season, aided by a five-game winning streak.

That’s no guarantee of more success, but clearly the Patriots have gained traction.

“Ask me in six weeks, I’ll be able to tell you how good we are,” Southern Alamance coach Fritz Hessenthaler said.

 

  • A Cummings-Williams game often sounds like a big deal. This year, it probably fits that billing.

Both teams could be primed for strong seasons. Each team has Division I recruits suiting up.

Versatile Cummings athlete Jonathan Paylor has emerged as one of the most widely recruited players in the country based on a long list of Division I offers received throughout the spring and summer. He already had been in the spotlight, but the attention could rise to another level with the onset of his junior season.

Cummings beat Williams 32-25 last year on the way to a 9-2-1 record under coach David Grimm.

Williams secured its first winning record since 2013 by going 7-5 in a nice turnaround in coach Patrick Stokes’ first season. The Bulldogs were ousted in the second round of the Class 3-A state playoffs in double overtime at Fayetteville Seventy-First.

The Bulldogs’ four regular-season losses came to three conference champions and a league runner-up.

 

SUMMARY: Friday night’s slate

Cummings at Williams

Southern Alamance at Graham

Reidsville at Western Alamance

Eastern Randolph at Eastern Alamance

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