After missing in 2015, Rams have extra motivation

Jim Bob Bryant played quarterback in college. He commands a lot from that position.

Entering his ninth season as Havelock’s head football coach, he’s had three signal-callers guide the Rams to state championships – Garrett Crowe, Pharoh Cooper and Travis Sabdo.

Senior Corey Cooper and junior Zach Sabdo, competing for that starter’s role this season, are looking to prolong Havelock’s stellar play from behind center.

“They both look really good. They’ve both come on and have done a great job,” Bryant said. “A lot of teams would hunt and scrape for one quarterback, and we have two that can play the position.

“My plan is to have both ready every night and both will see the field every Friday night.”

With that position comes great responsibility, along with accuracy and, most importantly in Bryant’s eyes, no turnovers.

Cooper passed for 1,162 yards with 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season, while Sabdo threw for 601 yards with five scores and two interceptions.

“Two things that Coach Bryant looks for from a Havelock quarterback is to be accurate, complete the ball and be smart with the football,” Cooper said. “Coming from last year, I struggled a little bit, but I’ve worked hard in the offseason to fix that.”

Sabdo is more of a dropback, pocket passer, while Cooper has more of an ability to scramble with the football.

Sabdo said he’s progressed in knowing the offense and his teammates.

“It was a struggle in the beginning but now it’s getting easier,” he said. “My brother (Travis Sabdo) happened to be the quarterback here and I learned a lot from him and Coach Bryant is a great teacher. “Perfection, that’s what Coach Bryant preaches on every play, every snap.

“That’s the competition we have every day.”

Fortunately for the quarterbacks, they have senior running back Tony Sharpe, who has more than 3,700 rushing yards and 62 touchdowns over the past two seasons, returning to the backfield, along with Navy-commit Montrece Gatling and Cameron Hutchinson.

The wide receiver corps is the team’s deepest position led by last year’s leading receiver and Navy-commit Quinzel Lockhart, who is joined by Khalil Barrett, Gatling, Christian Capps, Jeffrey Harris, Kenyatta Frazier, Tyler Hundley and Anthony Harris.

“This offense, nobody should be able to stop us,” Lockhart said. “The only thing that can stop us is ourselves. We’ve been running it every day, perfecting it and by the time the season starts, we should be unstoppable with our offense.”

The offensive line has to replace three starters off last year’s group, but it still has Division-I college prospect Avery Jones, a junior, and senior Howie Baldree.

“We aren’t the biggest team, but we have a lot of speed,” Sharpe said. “The boys can play. I think we are going to be good this year.”

Havelock’s defense is switching to a 3-4 as a way to get a little quicker.

Destin Flloyd, Brandon Boyd and Chris Mazique are slated to start on the defensive line, while linebackers Tyiyon Johnson, Cameron Hutchinson, Kendall Frazier, and Soloman Beligotti will be next in line, followed by defensive backs Dominique Madden, Gatling, Harris and Welton Spottsville.

Havelock’s defense notched 39 sacks, forced 21 turnovers and allowed 15 points per game, while its offense scored more than 41 points per game a year ago.

While the Rams won 12 games last season, the one game that sticks in their mind is their 42-35 loss at home to Eden Morehead in the second round of the state playoffs – an unusual postseason exit for a team that’s played for a state championship in four of out the previous five years.

“This is a pretty big year,” Lockhart said. “Every day Coach Bryant talks about how our team is the one that no starting player has a state championship ring.

First off, what it starts with is leadership. Last year, we didn’t have a lot of leadership. This year, we built a lot of leadership with the seniors and all of us are stepping up to the plate.”

Havelock is scheduled to open the season against Washington at 7 p.m. Friday at Havelock High.

2016 schedule

Aug. 19,  vs. Washington, 7 p.m.

Aug. 26, vs. New Bern, 7 p.m.

Sept. 2, vs. New Hanover, 7 p.m.

Sept. 9, at J.H. Rose, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 16, at Northside, 7 p.m.

Sept. 23, at W. CARTERET, 7 p.m.

Sept. 30,  at WHITE OAK, 7 p.m.

Oct. 7, vs. W. CRAVEN, 7 p.m.

Oct. 21, at RICHLANDS, 7 p.m.

Oct. 28, vs. SWANSBORO, 7 p.m.

Nov. 4, vs. JACKSONVILLE, 7 p.m.

Conference games in ALL CAPS

2015 Results (12-1)

Havelock 50, Washington 13

Havelock 41, New Bern 6

Havelock 42, New Hanover 0

Havelock 49, J.H. Rose 48

Havelock 43, Northside 0

Havelock 41, West Carteret 6

Havelock 38, White Oak 20

Havelock 22, West Craven 6

Havelock 40, Richlands 10

Havelock 60, Swansboro 7

Havelock 37, Jacksonville 14

Playoffs

Havelock 41, Eastern Guilford 28

Eden Morehead 42, Havelock 35

Adam Thompson is the sports editor of the Sun Journal.