Pats Bring 'Honor' to Opening Practice
Early on a cool Monday morning at Pinecrest, 108 athletes began the three-and-a-half month odyssey that is a high school football season with the first official day of practice.
“I’m shaking right now. I’m ready to go,” senior linebacker Jonah Caliri said moments before the team left the fieldhouse for the practice fields. “I only wish we could hit today.
“This is my last first day so it’s a big deal. It’s kind of sad, also, but let’s get after it, let’s go.”
Beginning his sixth season as head coach of the Patriots, Chris Metzger was omnipresent with his megaphone as the team worked out in a half-dozen groups. The players can put on pads for the first time on Saturday. Rising freshmen report for practice next Monday.
A home scrimmage that includes Northwood, Ben L. Smith and Douglas Byrd is scheduled for 8 a.m. next Wednesday. The Patriots travel to Purnell Swett that Thursday for a 6:30 p.m. meeting against Terry Sanford.
Three weeks away is a challenging schedule that begins with a home junior varsity game against Jack Britt on Thursday, Aug. 16, followed by a varsity engagement with the Buccaneers in Fayetteville on Friday. The Patriots are coming off a 5-7 season that included its third playoff appearance in the last four years.
Caliri is a key part of a defensive unit that has most of its parts back from a year ago. The offense will have a lot of new faces.
“We definitely have a good bond,” Caliri says. “Most of us have been on the field together so it’s a good mesh.”
Dwayne Simpson, the team’s second leading ground gainer a year ago, has the challenge of making a rather dramatic position change in his senior year. He is vying with another senior, Aaron Reimer, at quarterback. The versatile player will probably wear a lot of hats.
“I’m making a change from running back to quarterback so I’ve got to step up and lead the team to a lot of victories,” he says. “I’m ready to go out and have fun and shine.”
At a Southeastern Conference meeting on Sunday, the six coaches voted Richmond Senior and defending 4-A state champion Scotland High a close 1-2 to win the league title. Pinecrest, Hoke County, Lumberton and Purnell Swett were bunched close together below them.
“They’ve got a good opportunity to prove people wrong,” Metzger says of his squad. “We don’t worry much about the prognosticators. Our big thing is to worry about us, get better, do the little things. We’re just focusing on one game at a time and that’s the jayvee and varsity games against Jack Britt.”
Before the start of the workout, the players shouted out, “We love football,” and then this year’s theme, “honor.”
“They picked the word ‘honor’ because they want to honor the program,” Metzger said. “It’s an honor to be out here, it’s an honor to carry on the tradition, and it’s an honor to represent this community.”
The Patriot coach feels one of the characteristics of this group is its strong leadership base.
“The daily character lesson is being done by the players as opposed to a coach,” he says. “We’re trying to give them more opportunities to show leadership. Every year we have good leaders, but collectively with their GPAs and everything else this group has shown, it’s got the most leadership.”
Aug. 17 - at Jack Britt; 24 – Overhills; 31 – at Cox Mills; Sept. 7 – Reagan; 14 – at Western Harnett; 21 – Hew Hanover; 28 – Lumberton; Oct. 5 – Scotland; 12 – at Purnell Swett; 19 – at Richmond; 26 – Hoke.
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