The 28th annual Sampson County Pigskin Jamboree was held Friday night at Clinton High School. Fans from schools across the county poured in to Dark Horse Stadium as the sounds of pads hitting and fans cheering filled the air for the first time this season. With most of the teams engaging in their first scrimmages up to this point, Friday night provided a great opportunity for coaches to see how their schools stacked up against the competition.
The skies were filled with storm clouds in the hours leading up to the jamboree and a light rain fell just prior to the start. The skies cleared, however, in perfect timing to allow the crowd to enjoy a night of exciting play.
Head coach Cory Barnes said that while he had some concerns from the jamboree, overall, he was pleased with what he saw from his team.
“We moved the ball well and played good defense, especially early,” he noted. “We got a little wore down at the end but overall we made some good plays on both sides of the ball and I’m pleased with what I saw.”
In session one, the Raiders defense squared off against the offense of Union. The Spartans made a couple of flashy plays but overall the Midway defense kept Union from advancing the ball much. Aided by back to back interceptions, the Raiders defense stifled the Spartans as they were kept out of the end zone.
In session two, Midway’s offense faced the Lakewood Leopards as the Raiders new offense made their debut. The Leopards held their own and showed some defensive potential but the Raiders converted a couple of big running plays to find the end zone twice.
Against the Clinton offense, Midway had its share of struggles keeping the Dark Horses from advancing the ball. The Raiders did generate one turnover and only allowed one score but overall the Clinton offense was successful against Midway’s defense.
Rounding out first half play, Midway’s offense displayed their true potential as the Raiders went right to work against Hobbton. They found much success as the Wildcats struggled to get a handle of the Raiders new option look. Midway generated three scores and was threatening a fourth time before time ran out.
Midway’s second half mirrored first half play as the Raiders offense generated three scores against Union and one score against Clinton. Their defense sputtered a bit against Lakewood as the Leopards scored twice but Midway recovered in time to hold Hobbton to just one score.
“The one area that concerns me is that I’m a bit disappointed in our conditioning,” Barnes told his team after the scrimmages. “We’re going to focus on that next week.
Midway kicks their season off Friday at Union.
Lakewood’s opening session saw the Leopard defense take on the Clinton offense. Lakewood gave up one rushing touchdown to Clinton quarterback, Knowlydge Evans while Lakewood senior Jaylin Torres recovered a fumble.
The Lakewood offense then hit the field against the Hobbton defense for the second session. The Leopards ran the ball effectively, recording several 10 and 15 yard runs against the wildcat defense to put on a good showing.
Next up for Lakewood in session three, their defense matched up against the offense of the Midway Raiders, who scored two touchdowns against the Leopards. Not all was bad for the Leopards, however, as their defense made some critical pass breakups in a solid defensive showing.
The fourth and final session of the first half saw Lakewood’s offense struggling to move the ball against a stringy Union defense.
After the intermission, Lakewood’s offense faced Clinton’s defense where on the final play of the session the Leopards shining moment was a picked off a pass in the end zone.
The second session of the second half saw the Hobbton Wildcats’ offense match up against the Lakewood defense where the Wildcats scored twice in the session.
The next session saw Midway’s defense locked in a battle with the Leopard offense which scored a 14 yard rushing touchdown from senior, Jahdon Smith. The Leopards were also able to generate one more score for a session total of two.
Lakewood’s defense was pitted against the Union Spartan offense for the final session of the night where Union was able to move the ball effectively. Lakewood’s defense made some goal line stands, however, as Union was able to only punch it in for one score.
“We got a little better between this past Wednesday and now. The competition level is always going to fluctuate,” Lakewood head coach Barrett Sloan said after the jamboree.
“Our team still has some things to work on, on the offensive side of the ball, but defensively I was pleased with the night. “I’m proud of our boys, they went in and battled,” Sloan concluded.
The Leopards kick off the 2018 regular season on Aug. 17 with an away game at Pender.
Clinton got the chance to further see where their team stands headed into the season after playing through eight sessions at the Jamboree.
They opened up the night on offense in a rematch with their previous scrimmage opponent the Leopards of Lakewood. They had a good series coming away with a couple scores. After a brief break their defense cleaned house holding the Wildcats offense to a single touchdown. They closed out the first half with back-to-back session one on offense against Midway and a defensive series against Union with a solid showing on both sides.
After a 10-minute intermission, the Dark Horses played their next four sessions, this time facing Lakewood again but on the defensive side of action. Then when they got the chance to face Hobbton with their offense, Clinton was rolling, finding the endvzone three times.
The Dark Horses flipped roles in the final two sessions against Midway and Union again, holding the Raiders to a single score and punching in couple more against the Spartans to end the night.
With the Jamboree concluded new head coach Cory Johnson shared his thought on his team with continuing to get better being his main focus.
“I thought we continued to get one percent better at everything we did tonight. I like what I saw and I’m proud of our guys but we still got a long way to go,” Johnson said. “It’s all about staying humble and hungry and continuing to improve aspects of our game no matter what part it is.”
“We’re focused on us right now and not worried about anyone else, we’re living in the moment and steadily working on getting one percent better all the time,” he concluded.
The Horses start pre-season play next Friday when they travel to face Cape Fear.
The Union Spartans had an overall successful night at the Jamboree. Union head coach Doug Burley spoke after the Jamboree on how he thought his team played as well as what some of their strengths and weaknessess are heading into the final week of practice before the official start of play on Friday.
“I thought we did really well,” Burley began. “I’m really proud of them but I think we need to get in better shape. We’re working on that. We’re running every day ” he continued. “Our strengths this season is our senior leadership and our weaknesses are going to be that some of these younger guys have to step up and make plays,” He concluded.
The Spartans are slated to open regular season play on Friday when they host Midway.
The Wildcats, under new head coach Joe Salas, put on a good offensive and defensive front and look to be much improved over past years. The Wildcats are running an aerial offense where passing is the choice method of moving the ball.
In his observations on the scrimmage, Hobbton coach Joe Salas said, “We competed. We did a good job throwing and catching the ball. The offensive line was fantastic. Early on we were swarming to the ball pretty good on defense. Going forward, we have to improve our conditioning. We ran out of gas there at the end but that’s been the story because we are so low on numbers. We played hard at the beginning and faded at the end so we have to build cardio and toughness.”
The Wildcats begin regular season play next week at Goldsboro.
Jamboree director, Al Britt was please with this years scrimmage, commenting, “I was tickled with the overall scrimmage because the weather cooperated. I don’t think we got anybody injured tonight and we played a lot plays. I think all five football teams got better as the night went along and a couple of them are way ahead of schedule right now. I’m real pleased with some of the things I’ve seen tonight. These young coaches are exciting to watch for me.”
Reach Sports Editor Daron Barefoot at [email protected]