Local teams to play for titles

Local teams to play for titles
November 26
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  The Panthers Cadets celebrate after winning the AYF State Championship game.)

It’s that time of year again in youth football circles. Three local teams are primed in their quest to claim a national title in their age-group.

Three members of the Grayhounds 15s squad pose with their championship trophys.

Three members of the Grayhounds 15s squad pose with their championship trophys.

The Winston-Salem Rams (14 Unlimited), Winston-Salem Grayhounds (15 Unlimited) and South Fork Panthers (Cadets) are ready to give it their best shots at the AYF National Championships set for Dec. 7-12 in Kissimmee, Fla.

Tiny Rams 14 Unlimited: Unlike last year’s national championship team, the 2014 version of the Tiny Rams aren’t bursting at the seams with stand-out talent. But that’s not to say that there’s a void in that area.

The Rams, who enter the nationals at 10-0, faced their share of challenges, mostly in finding other teams to play in their respective division. As a result, they competed against AAU teams and posted a comeback win over the Greensboro Eagles, who play in the 9th Grade Division.

“It’s been a great year,” said Coach Angela Lambson. “You never know what might happen over the course of a season. All of us are happy to get back there (Florida) again. We look forward to competing for another national championship.”

The defense, spearheaded by Lee Kpogba and Mizell Hall, has set the tone. “Our ability to stop opponents is a big reason why this team is where it is,” said Lambson. “I give all the props to my coaching staff.”

On offense, a beefy front line that averages 250 pounds per player paves the way. The Rams operate at peak efficiency thanks to a productive trench crew which includes: Jacob Eaton, Jalen Shelf, Chad Cloud, Saven Baker, Alaric Eaton, Chase Cloud and Paul Carton.

Chaz Gwynn (quarterback/running back/safety) could be the Rams’ best all-around athlete. He gets plenty of help in the backfield from Jaquan Millian and power runner Deandre Curry.

Panthers Cadets: The Panthers are on a roll, having won eight straight. There’s no doubt that defense is this team’s calling card. For the season, the Panthers (9-1) have allowed only 32 points, and most of those came in a 19-7 loss to the Tiny Indians in Week 2 of the regular season.

“This team has toughness and resiliency and they’re very physical,” said Coach Danny Mensh. “I’ve never seen a team this young (ages 9-11) that has the poise and commitment that this group has.”

The Panthers are playing their best defense of the season. In beating Team Charlotte 25-0 to win the AYF state championship, the crew from South Fork gave up one first down. Nasir Graham is a dominant factor on the defensive line. In the state title game, Graham had 12 tackles and two forced fumbles, one of which set up a Panthers touchdown.

On offense, running back Tre Pate, quarterback Cam Hill and wide receiver D’Mon Stokes are the ringleaders. Stokes has caught a touchdown pass in five consecutive games.

Grayhounds 15 Unlimited: Offensive balance and stingy defense have propelled the Grayhounds to the national stage. This year’s squad is comprised of multiple players who can play multiple positions on both sides of the football.

The Grayhounds (6-3) have ample depth on the roster, which allows them to employ a basketball-style player rotation. It’s routine for them to plug in subs on every other down.

“We can put a lot different faces on the field and not lose our effectiveness,” said Coach Kelvin Carter. “On offense, we have so many players who contribute and we’re balanced. But there’s no question that the offensive line is the key. Without them, nothing happens.”

Up front, the Grayhounds are led by Marcus Baker, Kharon Garnes, Derik Grampus, Duwaun Cowen, Dwight Moore, Raymond Wilson, Nathaniel Davis, Joseph Wassong and Mallick Booe.

Versatility is also a hallmark on defense. Captained by Wassong, the Grayhounds turned in one of their best defensive performances of the season in a 21-0 shut-win over the Mallard Creek Hokies in the AYF state championship game.

Aside from having so many interchangeable parts at their disposal, team unity has served the Grayhounds well, according to Carter. “The players on our team our like brothers,” he said. “They realize they can look at the player next to them and know that they’re not out there by themselves. These players understand their role, they know what it takes to execute the game plan, and they communicate very well.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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