Fruitland – North Henderson Knights have an abundance of fast players in skill positions led by Barry Sanders-styled dasher Trevon Hill, as they battle in the area’s elite Western Mountain Athletic Conference.
NHHS is off to a 2-0 start, already doubling its win output for 2019. The Knights scored a tremendous 13-8 comeback win at arch-rival West Henderson in their WMAC opener Friday. They beat East Henderson 28-14, after surging to a 20-0 halftime lead, in week one. The win avenged a comeback win by East a season earlier. NHHS closed last season by defeating Enka, and thus rides a three-game win streak heading to Tuscola. This is North’s last year in the mighty 3A WMAC, before heading with West Henderson back to what is now the 2A Mountain Six Conference this fall due to realignment.
Jim Beatty is in his second year at the helm of the Knight realm. He led T.C. Roberson Rams for 13 years — including to a share of the league overall title twice — in 2007 and ‘12. In ‘07, TCR reached the 4A West regional title game. He then coached Mars Hill offensive linemen for three seasons, was NHHS offensive coordinator for a year, then rose to Knights head coach in 2019. He is calling Knight plays this spring season.
Talent is on the upswing. “North has some of the best skill guys in the area,” said East Henderson Coach Justin Heatherly.
Speedy TB-receiver Trevon Hill (5-6, 160 sr.) transferred in from Roberson. Hill ran wild for 156 yards and two touchdowns in the opener. He was even more amazing at West. He scored both North TDs — on a 78-yard screen, and later a five-yard run. He set up his winning score with a dazzling play, to gain three on fourth and a yard to go. He broke what seemed a sure tackle for a big loss, danced about to his right, dashed left then cut upfield to the seven-yard-line. “Trevon is a fast breakaway runner. He gets onto the edge,” Coach Beatty said.
Power runner Windell Flowers (5-10, 182 sr.) is strong “between the tackles,” yet “can bounce outside,” Beatty said. Reserve Demarcus McCluney (5-11, 170 sr.) is a “shifty back, who can run ahead with power.”
Coach Beatty said, “We try to get our athletes the ball. Our receivers are athletes.” Clutch wide receivers once again are fast, tall and acrobatic Zach “Z” McDaniel (6-3, 185 sr.); and sure-handed Connor Hunt (6-2, 170 sr.). “They both pose problems to defenses,” Beatty said. “It’s so hard to double team Z, with our other weapons. Z can run. He jumps for that 50-50 ball. Connor runs extremely good routes. He has great hands, and also goes up for the ball.”
Fast slot receivers Jaylon Croft (6-0, 155 jr.) and Javar Jackson (5-9, 140 sr.) made several clutch catches at West. Other targets are WR-QB Brian Payne (6-0, 170 sr.), Xander Roper (6-0, 175 sr.) who also punts, and Hill whenever Flowers is the tailback. “Javar and Trevon have real good speed and hands,” Beatty said. “We have to play fast spread football.”
New quarterback Jaxson Willis (6-3, 180 so.) had a strong arm and is improving accuracy. Backup Payne is a good wildcat QB, with adept “zone reads and runs,” Beatty noted.
Jumbo Knights up front are returnees LG Dylan Blackwell (5-11, 245 jr.) and center Jaden Marshall (5-10, 195 sr.). Joining them are RG Ezekiel Reyes (5-11, 240 fr.), RT Tanner Green (5-11, 240 sr.) and LT Alex Mendoza (5-10, 180 sr.) who started late last season. “We don’t have a ton of size,” Beatty said. “But we understand pass protection, and how to block the run. Our guys work hard, to master their craft.”
Coordinator Zach Wilkins’ defense is mostly 3-3 stack, or 4-2-5 versus option running, with some cover two or three deep coverage. NHHS often blitzes.
Starters are MLB likely Bryson Metcalf (5-11, 190 so.), strong-side LB Colton Laughter (6-0, 185 sr.) and weak-side LB Payne. Up front are NG McCluney and DTs Choban Tovar (6-2, 245 sr.) and Dylan Blackwell, who returned an East fumble 35 yards for a score. The two OLB-safeties are Hunt or Drake Blackwell (6-1, 170 fr.) as the strong-side “Monster,” and Hill as weak-side “Bandit.” Free safety Roper made a pick Friday.
These Knight defenders are ”aggressive. We’re getting nine hats or more to the football,” Coach Beatty said. He called the two immediate victories a “huge momentum setter. It can snowball” into more Knight conquests.