2018 Pigskin Preview: North Lenoir
The Kim Brown era at North Lenoir is over, going 13-21 in two seasons with a second place conference finish in 2016. Stepping into the position now is Jim Collins who is trying to build up the winning culture Brown started.
“This is going to be an awesome season. We’ve put a lot of work into the last three months. The kids are excited. Even more important, the community is very excited about North Lenoir football,” Collins said.
For a team that is two years away from almost winning the conference title, Collins has set some lofty goals for his team.
“This is a hard division, but there is no reason we can’t compete in it," he said. "We welcome the challenge. We want to win a league title. That is something we hope to do here. We want to win eight games so we can host a playoff game or two here. But the thing is, we can’t do it at once. We have to earn it week by week, quarter by quarter, play by play. We’re getting out of the mentality that we are a .500-only team.
"We are much better than that and these kids are going to show that this season.”
Tragedy recently struck the North Lenoir family recently when Riley Miller, a baseball player, was killed in an auto accident. His friend, Kenneth Faulkner III, a football player, remains hospitalized in very serious condition. Collins took time away from his coaching duties to rally his players together.
“This is something we have to get through together as a group,” Collins said. “This is more than just football. Sports is secondary when it comes to things like this. But we are a family and will grieve and heal with each other. We are going to learn and other and grow.”
When looking at his team, Collins sees a lot of good things. He said the Hawks are a young team, but hungry.
“They did well at the JV level, but I am trying to tell that kids that that is not a fair assessment of what they can do," Collins said. "We just have to take care of the ball and protect it. We have to take care of ourselves, and we if we do that, we can beat anyone."
Evaluating his talent, Collins picked out three top players: senior Terrence Copper, senior Jaylin McNeil, and junior Christopher Russell.
“Everyone is excited and ready to play. We’ve been ready to play for a long time. We’ve been waiting for Bunn.” Copper, a running back and linebacker said, referencing a controversial game that the Hawks lost in the opening last season.
“He makes great plays for us on defense. He has great hands in the backfield. He can receive for us out of the back. He is going to be one of our big playmakers.”
McNeil, a cornerback and running back, shared “We have good chemistry. We all play well together. We just want to get out and play.” “He is very fast. He’s short, so he will get some good screens behind out big linemen. He’s very athletic and very explosive,” Coach Collins said.
Collins also praised Russell.
“He is a special kid," Collins said. "He can play both sides of the ball, but he’s probably a little angry with me because I won’t let him play every down. But he has great football instincts. He is great in figuring out the schemes of the other team.”
“I think we all have a good work ethic here. We want to give 100% every time. It doesn’t matter if we win a game or lose it, we’re going to put it all out there on the field and fight every minute of the game,” Russell said. “We have a new coach here. We have a new program. It is time for a new beginning here.”