PITTSBORO — The field may not have had hash marks or a chain gang yet, but the oppressive heat at Friday night’s annual Jack Shaner Jamboree signaled one thing: high school football is back in Chatham County.
After the pandemic necessitated a bizarre spring season earlier this year, this set of 30-minute scrimmages under the lights at Northwood High School helped six local teams get set for their first official games of the new campaign.
Green Hope, Southern Alamance and Trinity Christian joined Chatham’s three varsity teams, Chatham Central, Jordan-Matthews and Northwood, to kick off the 2021-22 season — proverbially, of course, given that Friday’s scrimmages did not include the kicking game and most drives began 40 yards out from the end zone. Below is a recap of how all of Chatham’s teams fared just a week before the start of their seasons.
After losing star quarterback Michael Moore to graduation, as well as three of their top-four receivers from last season, the Bears will feature several new starters on offense this fall.
But the new regulars seemed to be adjusting well Friday night, as Chatham Central had a good deal of success getting to the outside on running plays, pitches and jet sweeps.
“We looked decent on both sides of the ball,” Bears coach Sherman Howze said after the jamboree. “We’re going to be all right. Everything’s coming along just fine.”
The Bears coach was also impressed with the play of his offensive linemen at the jamboree, an important thing to note as the Bears transition to an almost entirely new offense.
“Everybody blocked,” Howze said. “We were skeptical about the offensive line, but I’m playing a bunch of young guys and they stepped up tonight.”
The Jets started slowly in their first scrimmage against Trinity Christian, but looked better as the night went along.
“The first game was a little rusty but in that second game (against Green Hope), I saw a lot of heart,” Jets’ newly-hired head coach Ryan Johnson said. “It really showed me that against another color jersey, we can step up and be successful.”
One of the highlights of the night for Jordan-Matthews came in that second game, when Jets quarterback Calvin Schwartz lined up as a wide receiver, caught a pass and ran down the sideline for a score.
“That was great,” Johnson said. “(Calvin) is one of our better athletes on the team so we’re going to move him around a little bit. A touchdown is always great, but to have mishaps and false starts and mistakes and then put it together and score a touchdown is really uplifting for your team.”
Coming off of a season that included a co-conference title and a trip to the 3A playoffs, the Chargers expressed frustration with some mental errors Friday night.
“I saw some good things and I saw some bad things,” senior linebacker Stephen Lane said. “I believe, physically, we can make it as a team, but mentally, we’re just not quite there yet.”
However, after struggling to convert in the red zone on earlier possessions, the jamboree ended on a positive note for the hosts as sophomore quarterback Carson Fortunes connected with senior Adam Laros for a touchdown pass on the Chargers’ final drive of the night.
“That should have happened the drive before and against every other team we played, but we finally figured it out and put it together so that was good,” Northwood Head Coach Cullen Homolka said. “It’s a good start to a season. I think there’s a lot to learn from the film we’ve put together so I’m excited about watching that.”
Homolka was also pleased with the opportunity that the jamboree gave Northwood to compete against 4A teams like Green Hope and Southern Alamance.
“There was a lot of good talent out here,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a fun year for a lot of schools.”