Bears prepare for 2017 football season

Published 2:40 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

AHOSKIE – The next step.

Fourth-year Hertford County High football coach Terrance Saxby hopes his players are hungry enough to take it.  They certainly have history for motivation.

Last year the Bears ended their football season with a 9-5 overall mark, including going 2-1 in the post-season and a 5-1 record in Northeastern Coastal Conference play. They finished as three-way co-champions tied at the top with Northeastern and eventually 2A state finalist, Edenton Holmes. The Bears’ season concluded in the third round of the NC High School Athletic Association playoffs with a bitter 35-27 loss to East Duplin.

This year Saxby will greet 12 starters from the 2016 team. Eight of those returnees will be on offense and four others on defense. 

Offensively, the top returner is senior quarterback Lance Hunter.  Hunter passed for 2,967 yards and 34 touchdowns in ’16.

Joining Hunter in the backfield will be senior running back Kyeem Perry.  Perry was the team’s leading rusher a year ago with 1,273 yards gained on the ground and he accounted for nine Bear touchdowns despite missing five games.

Leading the offensive line will be senior center Jarrett Jones, flanked by fellow senior guards Braxton Williams and Demonte Freeman. On one side, next to that pair, will be senior tackle Keandre Spivey. Senior running back Jaree Pitt and senior slot receiver Zion Riddick also return on offense. 

“Our offense is athletic and we have good experience,” said Saxby, who begins his fourth campaign with the Bears. On the other hand, our defense will be young and we will lean on our defensive line to make plays and lead the way,” he added.

The Bear defense will be led by Cortay Stephens, a senior defensive tackle, while the other defensive tackle is sophomore Christopher Vinson. In the backfield will be junior defensive back Jalen Davis, backing up junior linebacker Qy’Shawn Chism.

Hertford County opens the season at home on August 18 against Gates County, whom they shutout on the road a year ago in their opener, 27-0. They will then head south to Wilson Hunt on August 25 before hosting perennial power Rocky Mount at home with Thursday Night Football to end the month on August 31.

After an open date on September 8, the Bears will then travel to Winterville and face 4A South Central on September 15.  They will conclude non-conference play with a pair of home dates: North Pitt on September 22 and then conclude the non-league slate with a newcomer to Ahoskie in Jacksonville on September 29.

Northeastern Coastal Conference play begins with the first chill of October on the road on the 6th in Elizabeth City against Northeastern before another conference road date on October 13 at Kill Devil Hills against First Flight.  The Bears’ Homecoming game follows on October 20 with Currituck, followed by Pasquotank at home on October 27.  Back on the schedule as the season-finale for the first time in four years is Bertie on November 3 before the state playoffs begin on November 10.

“The non-conference schedule is very tough this year,” said Saxby. “Rocky Mount and Wilson Hunt are always good, and we also face Gates County, South Central, North Pitt, and Jacksonville.

“In conference, Northeastern will again be tough, and they will be remembering our win over the Eagles from last year.  Road games at Bertie and First Flight will be tough, and we also have to play well at home against Currituck and Pasquotank.

“We’re really excited for the team,” he added. “We feel like we can have a good team if we remain healthy and stay focused.  At the end of the year we really want to be in a position to make a strong run at the conference championship and the state playoffs.”