The first day of official practice for high school football teams in North Carolina was Thursday, Aug. 1.
But by then, the McDowell Titans and first-year head coach Darrell Brewer had long since embarked on their 2019 journey.
The Titans were coming off a three-day mini-camp, and got as much work in the offseason as the North Carolina State High School Athletic Association allows. Approximately 65 varsity and jayvee players dressed out Thursday, and Brewer said he’s pleased with the progress the Titans have made.
“The kids who have been here this summer have worked hard,” said Brewer. “I’ve been very impressed with their work ethic. They’ve worked hard in the weight room. I told them the other day, we’re just old country boys and we’ve got to have that working man’s mentality.”
They certainly do, especially since Brewer got a late start. The former Avery head coach took over in mid-June, replacing Andy Morgan, who departed to take an assistant coaching job at A.C. Reynolds after leading the Titans for three seasons. In addition, McDowell lost 18 seniors off last year’s roster, and is learning a brand new offense. The Titans are switching from the spread to the wing-T.
“It’s a fairly simple offense, and I think they’re liking it,” said Brewer. “I think the linemen like the pulling and the moving around, and they’ve had a lot of smiles on their faces when we’re been going through that.
“Defensively, I don’t think it will be a lot of adjustment from the things Coach (Keith) Styles has done in the past.”
Brewer said the Titans’ two sessions of 7-on-7 ball over the summer, against Owen and West Lincoln, gave him a pretty good idea of where the team is at in the transition process.
“I thought we competed well at Owen,” said Brewer. “We threw so much at them so fast, and I was pretty impressed with the way they picked it up. We came back here against West Lincoln, and they’re a lot like we are, very similar to us, wing-T-type football, and we battled pretty good with them. We’re just trying to work on some different things, and they did well with it.”
The Titans are coming off a 4-8 campaign in 2018 that saw them finish in a tie for sixth place in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference with a 2-5 league mark. At times, McDowell looked good, but was physically outmatched against the league’s upper-echelon teams, losing by a combined 170-26 against Watauga, Alexander Central, Hickory and Freedom.
Gone from that squad are two-time all-conference players J.C. Olivo and Andrew Davis, and all-NWC twins Adam and Andruw Randolph. All four led the team in key statistical categories, including passing (Adam Randolph, 148-227, 2,050 yards, 18TDs, 12 INTs), rushing (Olivo, 203-950-10TDs), receiving (Andruw Randolph, 45-643-7TDs) and tackling (Davis, 96 tackles, 3TFL).
But there are several key returners, including linemen Levi Lister, Nehemiah McMillan, Bradley Biddix and Nick Ivy, running back Dequan Boyce (33 rushes, 214 yards, 3TDs), tight end Richard Handy (20 receptions, 308 yards, 3TDs) and linebacker Harley Allison (48 tackles).
There are also some key additions from last year’s junior varsity squad, which went 5-5 overall and 4-3 in league play. Junior Riley Moore has emerged as the leading candidate at quarterback, and junior running back Quantavian Moore adds some speed out of the backfield.
The Titans will begin full-contact practices next week in preparation for the season opener at R-S Central Aug. 23. McDowell will host a two-team practice with West Caldwell Tuesday, Aug. 13, beginning at 10 a.m. The Titans will travel to Owen for a full scrimmage Thursday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.
Next Saturday, Aug. 10, the Titan Booster Club will host a “Meet the Titans” event from 10 a.m. to noon at Titan Stadium. The varsity and jayvee teams will hold an open practice, and the booster club will sell concessions and merchandise. There will be music, face-painting and a pass-and-kick competition for kids. Admission is free and the gates open at 9:30.
The Titans coaching staff this season includes Brewer (head coach, defensive coordinator); returning coaches Styles (defensive line), Bill Taylor (linebackers), Turner Kincaid (defensive backs) and Darren Benfield (offensive line); and first-year assistants James Condrey (offensive coordinator), Mike Laws (wide receivers) and John Stafford (running backs). Maeve Healy returns as the Athletic Trainer.
McDowell Titan football schedule 2019
Aug. 23 @R-S Central
Aug. 30 East Burke
Sept. 6 @Patton
Sept. 13 Mitchell
Sept. 27 Hickory
Oct. 4 @St. Stephens
Oct. 11 South Caldwell*
Oct. 18 @Alex. Central
Oct. 25 @Watauga
Nov. 8 Freedom
All games kick off at 7:30
NWC games in bold