North Lenoir looks to make noise in 2019 after rough 2018 campaign
LA GRANGE — The North Lenoir Hawks are ready to fly in 2019.
The first year of the Jim Collins era was rough, as the team went 0-10, including the first loss to heated rival South Lenoir since 2009 in the annual “Braggin’ Bowl.” This season, Collins said having additional time with the team over the summer should work wonders when play starts Aug. 23.
“I got a whole year to work with these kids,” Collins said. “Getting the kids to know me is probably the No. 1 thing (and) the second is our senior class is a little bit stronger as far as leadership goes. Any good team I’ve ever coached, the senior leadership is one of the most important cogs moving forward.”
The Hawks dropped five games by two scores or less, most notably a 20-19 defeat by the hands of the Eastern Carolina Conference champions in Kinston. One of North Lenoir’s senior leaders, center and defensive lineman Chris Russell, said the team’s attitude has shifted in a much positive manner.
“I think last year, our biggest weakness was our mindset when we came across adversity,” Russell said. “We had close games and the other team would score—instead of having the mentality of coming back and scoring ourselves, we shut down. Our squad this year is better because we all have a dog mentality. We may not have the most varsity players, but all we need is 11 with that mentality every play on the field.”
Blake Davis, who will play fullback and linebacker for the Hawks, said the team has worked hard over the summer and is focused.
“We’ve got a better adjustment period with Coach Collins and we’re paying more attention to detail this year,” Davis said.
Running back and linebacker Ny’Jai Koonce shared similar sentiments.
“We’re working harder than we did last year,” Koonce said. “We’re working on perfecting the little things before moving on to the next thing and showing progress every day.”
Collins said he believes the team will be much more competitive this season, with hopes of breaking into the playoffs.
“I think (we can) with the one year under our belt,” Collins said. “This group of kids when they were freshmen ran a real successful JV team and went to the playoffs as sophomores, so it’s not like we haven’t won before. We just need to work one game at a time and see where we fall.”