Birds of Prey

Published 10:09 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

WINDSOR – After winning their first two games to open the 2015 season, Bertie High floundered their way to a 3-8 record – at one point losing seven in a row – and missed the post-season.

Out was coach Tyris Hill and a familiar face was “Back in Blue”. Former Falcons junior varsity coach Grantley Mizelle, who resurrected the program in Robersonville at South Creek the past two seasons, returned home to this time direct the varsity program.

“I’m five miles now from my house,” Mizelle joked. “But I know these kids and that’s the most important thing.”

Lance Freeman (w/ball) will be just one of the offensive weapons first-year coach Grantley Mizelle will employ with the Bertie High Falcons for the 2016 season. | / Steven Ferguson

Lance Freeman (w/ball) will be just one of the offensive weapons first-year coach Grantley Mizelle will employ with the Bertie High Falcons for the 2016 season. | / Steven Ferguson

Bertie’s offense will be led by senior quarterback Greg Williams. Also lining up in the Falcon backfield will be senior running back Corey Cherry. Another senior, Lance Freeman, will line up at tight end with another trio of seniors anchoring the offensive line: James Thomas, Brandon Davis, and Malik Jefferson.

“We will run the spread option attack and use that to set up everything else we do offensively,” Mizelle said.

The Bertie defense will be led by senior linebackers Shaquan Smallwood and Amonte Puller. Up front, Keyontra Lee, a sophomore, will man one defensive tackle spot. Jerome Shepard and Erick Speight are the seniors in the defensive backfield joined by Marcus Philyaw, a junior.

“Our defense is going to fly around and make plays,” Mizelle added. “We will use our speed and quickness. I coached a lot of these young men three years ago, so I didn’t have to develop relationships, I had to renew relationships.”

The Falcons will play 11 consecutive Fridays after an open date on Aug. 19. Bertie will open the season Aug. 26 in Creeksville against Northampton County. On Sept. 2 they will have their home opener hosting Gates County. Sept. 9 they are back on the road at Roanoke Rapids, and then have back-to-back-to-back home dates: Sept. 16 with Southwest Edgecombe and their 2A Northeastern Conference opener on Sept 23 with Northeastern before a Sept 30 home game against Williamston Riverside.

Bertie opens October with a date on Oct. 7 in Ahoskie against Hertford County. Oct. 14 finds them back on the road on the coast at Kill Devil Hills against First Flight. Homecoming will be Oct. 21 when Currituck County comes calling at Roy Bond Jr. Stadium, followed by their home finale on Oct. 28 with Pasquotank. The regular season ends one week later, Nov. 4, on the road at Edenton J.A. Holmes, with the 2A state playoffs starting the following week, Nov. 11.

“We have a tough non-conference schedule as Roanoke Rapids and SW Edgecombe are strong,” Mizelle said. “Northampton and Riverside will also be tough.”

“Our conference is really stronger,” he added. “We will be chasing Northeastern, Hertford County, and Edenton. “You cannot take a night off. Everybody is tough including Currituck, Pasquotank, and First Flight.”

“We play eleven straight weeks since our bye week is week-one,” Mizelle concluded. “We want to get better and improve each week; we want to develop a winning mentality for Bertie football. Our goal is to finish in the top four in the conference and make the state playoffs.”