New Attitude: Bears pledge greater grid success in 2022

Published 5:34 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2022

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Special to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald

ELIZABETH CITY – As that old soul music crooner Barry White sang back in the Seventies, “It’s just not enough”. Meanwhile, another artist of that era, Patti LaBelle, chimed in with another tune: “I Got A New Attitude”.

Hertford County head football coach Terrance Saxby (right) is joined at the podium of last week’s Media Day in Elizabeth City by three of his players: Juhuan Bond, Dawon Speller, and Jayden Whitted. Photo by Andre Alfred / Bertie Ledger-Advance

Melding those two radio classics together and you just might have what Hertford County High football coach Terrance Saxby has declared as the theme for his team’s 2022 football season: 7-4 and a second-place finish in the conference was a good record in 2021, but it fell short of expectations, and this year’s team has vowed to take it a step further.

Saxby was one of ten local high school gridiron coaches from two area conferences, along with several of their players, attending the seventh annual Football Media Day, here Friday, sponsored by local Elizabeth City State University radio WRVS 89.9/W18BBtv. This year’s event was held once again at the K.E. White Center on ECSU’s campus and takes place prior to the opening date (Aug. 1) the NC High School Athletic Association officially allows for pre-season practice.

“To our standards that was just not good enough,” the coach declared upon looking back on last season. “The expectation was higher, and I think we worked toward that this summer.”

Saxby added that the team will look a little different in 2022 when they take the field to begin the season Friday, Aug. 19, on the road at Gates County.

“Hertford County will look a little bit differently this year,” he noted. “Not so much offensively, but defensively, based on some head coaching decisions I made. I’ve moved some things around and I think it’s going to benefit us.”

Gone is linebacker Ansari Williams, who was second on the team in tackles with 55, while adding six sacks; 11th best statewide in the East. That was one less than teammate and fellow senior Brian Eley’s team-leading 56 takedowns.

“Teamwise, I felt as coach that we got a little stale,” he added. “We were kind of leveling out, so I felt like a change needed to be made. Whether it’s practice or in games we’re going to look different.”

On the offensive side of the ball is rising junior quarterback Keveon Rodgers, who was second in the Northeastern Coastal Conference with 1756 total yards: passing for 1374 yards and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 382 and adding nine more scores on the ground.

“The tempo of what we do will change,” he stated. “I’ve kind of got an idea of what I want and it’s now a case of the kids understanding the philosophy, and that’s what’ll be our focus Monday when we start practice.

“He (Rodgers) is starting to understand a lot of passing game concepts,” Saxby continued. “He’s not just a playmaker, but is starting now to read defenses, throwing windows, things along those lines. He’s a special kid and he’s really worked hard this summer, and the next two weeks will be about just getting it done and being ready for it.”

Saxby did not spare a critique of himself and his coaches, saying he will demand more in ‘22.

“We haven’t won the conference enough,” he emphasized. “And, I’m hoping these changes will get us beyond the third-round of the playoffs. I’m ready to take that next step.”

Following the season opener, the Bears will play one of their most anticipated home openers in several years when they welcome in defending 1A state champion Tarboro on Aug. 26.

“Unless some coaches make some changes, based on what we know, we’ll be seeing the same offense three weeks in a row,” he speculated. “These teams are big and physical and they’re going to run the ball right at you. We know what Tarboro does week in and week out, so the schedule is challenging, but so too is our conference, and we have to look forward to that every year.”

The Bears posted a 5-2 conference mark a season ago, dropping contests to both Northeastern in Elizabeth City, and to Edenton Holmes at home.

“There’s no hiding,” he declared. “You know who you’ve got every Friday and we’re going to prepare and be ready to go. I’m excited for our junior and senior classes with some sophomores – really good sophomores – sprinkled in.

“I think we’ll be really good,” he noted. “But on paper is one thing, but starting Monday I’m going to make sure we stay that way.”

Players Juhuan Bond, lineman Dawon Speller, and linebacker Jayden Whitted accompanied their coach on the trip.

“I feel we’re ready to compete,” said receiver Bond. “The coaches are there to get us prepared and get us where we need to be; pushing us to make the playoffs and then we’ll see what’s up.”

“All our games are big,” Saxby concluded. “We better be up for playing Bertie, and Northeastern, scrimmaging New Bern. We’ll find energy for every game we play. Every week we’ll prepare for their best, and I know that’s what they’re going to give us.”