What you need to know about the return of the Harnett County Football Jamboree.
ERWIN — A truncated summer is already nearing its final days for local high school football teams who are just weeks away from slapping on shoulder pads and lacing up their cleats.
The historically transient spring slate of games left squads salivating for a sense of conventionality, and that’s just what Triton coach Ben Penny is anticipating on Aug. 11 when his program hosts the return of the Harnett County Football Jamboree.
“It’s gonna be great ... with Cleveland, South Johnston and some of those other guys coming in here – just the atmosphere itself,” Penny said of the scrimmage event that has been a preseason staple for area teams the past few years.
“When that time comes around, it’s gonna be special and I’m excited for the kids.”
With COVID-19 sidelining the jamboree this past season, a return to normalcy takes the shape of all four county teams in action, plus the addition of four squads from surrounding locales.
Here’s the breakdown of what to expect from each group ahead of their respective 45-minute scrimmage sessions.
2020-21 record: (2-5 overall, 2-3 Tri-County 3A)
Coming into the year with high expectations, Central couldn’t overcome a slow start and finished fourth in the Tri-County 3A Conference standings. Matt Migliore’s bunch will be in somewhat of a rebuild situation this season, having lost its top passer, rusher and receiver to graduation.
The Trojans hope to have a core of rising seniors in Hanson Staps, Khalil McLean and Marquez Jones to lead them into the newly-formed All American 3A/4A Conference, which pits them against all of the Harnett County teams.
2020-21 record: (5-2 overall, 3-2 East Central 2A)
The only 2A team competing in this year’s field, Midway won’t receive any sympathy, especially from opposing defenses.
Raiders quarterback Wyatt Holland, the reigning All-Record Passer of the Year, is fresh off a breakout junior campaign in which he finished fifth in the state with 1,977 yards through the air. Holland will have to groom a new supporting cast after losing his top receivers and rusher to graduation, but expect Cory Barnes’ fast-paced offense to be clicking on all cylinders as the regular season approaches.
2020-21 record: (3-4 overall, 3-3 Patriot Athletic 3A/4A)
As the only 4A representative at the event, the Jags won’t be shying away from bragging rights despite losing their head coach and All-Record Football Player of the Year Chris Perkins, who signed to play with St. Augustine’s University.
While the offense may struggle in the early going, Overhills seniors Hunter Berryhill and Damien Robinson hope to power a formidable defense that collected 28 total sacks last season.
2020-21 record: (2-5 overall, 1-4 Greater Neuse River 3A)
South comes into the preseason looking to replace longtime starting quarterback Chase Carroll, who signed with Methodist University, while adjusting to the new leadership of former Trojans assistant Lee Webb.
Webb was promoted to the head man after the departure of Matt Riggsbee in the offseason, but vows to keep some of the same principles on both sides of the ball.
Despite the losses of Carroll and fellow upperclassmen, All-Record first team performer Brayden Barefoot hopes to provide some leadership as a two-way standout.
2020-21 record: (4-3 overall, 4-1 Tri-County 3A)
Penny’s Hawks were the surprise of the area, finishing second in the conference, and were just a coin flip away from a state playoffs bid.
Though the group loses some key senior starters, the offense and defense should be just as potent with emerging talent J.J. Cowan expected to be back for his sophomore campaign. Cowan assumed a starting role in the backfield in Week 3 and finished the year with 599 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Rising junior defensive lineman Nate McKoy also figures to expand his role as an impact player.
2020-21 record: (0-7 overall, 0-5 Tri-County 3A)
Under new head coach Zach Tenuta, Western is looking to revamp its program after a winless spring.
With the departure of the school’s leading passer in Tristin Ung, Tenuta looks to develop a new leader behind center. Starting running back Elijah Bass should provide some stability as a rising senior, while Myles Washam and Seth McLamb hope to anchor what was a strong linebacker corps last year.
2020-21 record: (10-1 overall, 5-0 Greater Neuse River 3A)
The only state playoffs team at this year’s event, Cleveland enjoyed an undefeated season until falling to eventual 3AA champion Mount Tabor in May’s state final.
Rising senior Omarion Hampton, an elite running back prospect who recently committed to UNC. Meanwhile, Cavs quarterback Skyler Locklear is another collegiate prospect that figures to help lead the group back into state title contention.
2020-21 record: (2-5 overall, 1-4 Tri-County 3A)
Southern Lee finished fifth in the league and hopes to lean on promising tailback Kendal Morris in hopes of a rebound year.
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or 910 230-2040