Crusader Football Season Preview: Part Four
Tigerville, SC – The 2014 season of Crusader football is just around the corner as head coach Jeff Farrington enters his second season at the helm of the program. Despite a sub-par 5-6 record last season, Farrington and his staff have high hopes for their sophomore campaign on the field.
North Greenville returns seven starters to an offense that averaged 412.5 yards per game and 27.9 points per game, while also returning seven starters to a defensive unit looking to mature after starting six freshmen during the 2013 season.
In the final part of our Four Part Season Preview Series we take a look into the Crusader secondary, which started four freshman for much of the 2013 season but returns an All-American as a leader of the unit. We also touch on the special team unit which returns an All-American of it own as well as an experienced group of playmakers.
Secondary: The North Greenville secondary returns all but two members of a unit that limited opponents to just 225.3 yards per game after starting four freshmen in the fall. Sophomore safeties KJ McDonald (64 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception, six pass break ups) and Tony Godbolt (62 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, nine pass break ups) return as the last line of defense. Seniors Quantel Mack and Andre Hennie both make the move from cornerback to safety to provide experience and leadership, as freshman Trae Bonner (Luella, GA/Luelle High School) will also compete for playing time in the secondary.
Sophomore cornerbacks Nigel Gay (55 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions seven pass break ups) and Rochar Witherspoon (28 tackles, one tackle for loss, three pass break ups) also return to the field along with senior pre-season All-American Cejay Thomas (18 tackles, three tackles for loss, three pass break ups) and junior Zamardre Wingfield (28 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception, five pass break ups), while freshmen Darrius Proctor (Chesnee, SC/Chesnee High School) and Travis Beatty (Augusta, GA/Richmond Academy) provide youth, athleticism and depth.
One area of stability for the Crusaders will be special teams, as the team’s primary punter and two kickers return. Senior pre-season All-American kicker/punter Justin Gravely returns after a 2013 season in which he totaled a team-high 29 punts, including 11 inside the 20-yard line and seven punts over 50 yards, for an average of 41.8 yards per punt, while converting a school-record 12-of-20 field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards and was successful on 35-of-39 point-after attempts.
Fellow senior Parker Langford handled all of the kickoff duties as he totaled 59 kickoffs for an average of 60 yards per kick, including seven touchbacks, as opposing teams started at their own 22-yard line on average.
Gay is back as the team’s top punt returner after totaling 18 punt returns for an average of 10.2 yards per return, while also being the Crusaders’ top kick returner from last season’s squad after returning 14 kickoffs for an average of 18.4 yards return. Witherspoon (12 returns, 18.7 yards per return), Tyrell Hillary (five returns, 17 yards per return) and Robbie Brown (three returns, 22.7 yards per return) also saw time in the return game a year ago.
The Crusaders open up the 2014 season at home when they host Ave Maria University on Thursday, Sept. 4 in Younts Stadium at 7 p.m.