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PREP FOOTBALL FOLLOW: Faith Christian still winning, SN's Bell has big night

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Southern Nash's Kendrick Bell runs for a 32-yard touchdown during the third quarter of the game against Nash Central on Friday at Southern Nash High School.

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By ETHAN JOYCE
Sports Writer

Sunday, September 3, 2017

When Russell Weinstein took over as Faith Christian School football coach, he understood the apprehension around him. 

It was November, the 2017 season would be the first in school history, and besides a patch of green grass to play on, there were no football facilities. 

Two games into the Patriots jump into 8-man football, and the school is bustling. Faith Christian is 2-0 after a 55-26 victory against Wayne Christian on Thursday.

That apprehension has now shifted to Weinstein, who is coaching a team that is still learning football fundamentals. He realizes the season might get tougher, but it doesn’t make the wins less enjoyable right now.

“I am realistic, and when you do jump out the gate and you win a couple games, the fans do get really excited,” Weinstein said. “Especially when it is new to the school and their children and everything else.

“But I am old enough and have been in the game long enough to know that adversity is coming. Now, how we handle it will be key. But adversity is coming.”

Weinstein said these early wins have come from his players’ interest level. The team features an offense that shows multiple sets, and many players split time on offense and defense. It requires each player to learn more about all aspects of the game. Weinstein said the kids have been receptive to everything. 

“One of the things that has really been interesting with this group is their thirst of the knowledge of the game,” Weinstein said. “They really are attentive when we teach them things.

They don’t always do it right the first time, but at least they are listening and they’re paying attention and they are wanting to get it right. That part is really good.”

In the second game, Weinstein saw improvement. The Patriots had 13 penalties in their season opener at Northeast-Hobgood Academy. They had only five on Thursday at home. And the offense is finding multiple options to lean on. 

Weinstein said in the first half, the top running option was Hobart Brantley. In the second, it was Shaikey Hardy. Hardy, a freshman, finished with more than 200 yards rushing.

The coach feels like the team is really learning how to play. And it’s learned how to win too. 

“I think they are still going through the excitement stage of it,” Weinsein said. “They seemed a little more in tune with what was happening last night.”

SOUTHERN NASH

Southern Nash’s Kendrick Bell had an absurd scoring night on Thursday.

In the Firebirds 55-7 win against Bunn, the senior running back had five touchdowns and 201 rushing yards. One of his scores was a late kickoff return for 75 yards. 

Bell wasn’t the only Southern Nash running back with a big impact. Junior Zonovan Knight, who has an offer from East Carolina, had 206 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. 

Southern Nash coach Brian Foster said by the end of the game, the offensive and defensive starters had been pulled. But Southern Nash doesn’t shuffle special teams at all. The Firebirds didn’t need the extra score by that point, but it put a cap on Bell’s exciting night.

“He’s just a tough, tough kid,” Foster said. “. . . Kendrick just likes playing football. He doesn’t get too emotional one way or another. He’s going to give you everything he’s got.”

ROCKY MOUNT HIGH

The Gryphons (1-2) got their first win of the season against Hertford County on Thursday, 47-21. Rocky Mount High coach Jason Battle said it was the best the team had looked while sustaining drives this season.

Still a work in progress, Battle said that was expected with so many new starters. Sophomore quarterback Jaquan Lynch is still progressing and displaying the decision making that Battle likes out of the spot. 

Rocky Mount High opened the season with two tough matchups against Apex Middle Creek and Greenville Conley, respectively. Battle said the Gryphons were glad to get that first victory.

“I think last night put us back in a place where we felt like we have been doing things right and kind of getting a little bit better week by week,” Battle said. “Defensively, we played very well against (Hertford County’s) spread attack.

“I thought for the duration of that game we gave them a lot of problems. We did play two very good programs, but where we are right now, our kids don’t really accept moral victories. Putting a W in the column was good.”

NASH CENTRAL

All of Nash Central’s first three games have been one sided. The Bulldogs (2-1) beat North Egecombe in Week 1, 55-6; They lost to Southern Nash in Week 2, 48-7; And they beat Smithfield-Selma, 56-7, on Thursday. 

Nash Central coach Chris Lee said it’s hard to balance perception when the team is in lopsided games. Against Southern Nash, the Bulldogs struggled with penalties and turnovers. Against Smithfield-Selma, penalties were an issue again.

Lee told the team that regardless of the opponent or the score, Nash Central needs to start avoiding the flags. 

“We tell them that we’ve got to beat the teams we are supposed to be, and we are supposed to play the teams that are better than us really close,” Lee said. “If it gets to the fourth quarter, who knows what will happen.

But we have to cut down on penalties if we want to stay in the games.”

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