August 24, 2010

Friday Night Observations: Cary at Broughton

The Wolfpacker was in Raleigh for the start of the prep football season on Friday, Aug. 20 to watch NC State commitment Juston Burris lead his Broughton Capitals into a showdown with the Cary Imps. The Caps also boast junior running back Chris Mangus, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year, while the Imps showcased their ground attack, led by junior DeAndre Henry, who was a second-team all-conference pick last year after running for 1,431 yards and nine scores.

The Game:

The final was 53-26 but the game wasn't quite as lopsided as it appears until the fourth quarter when Broughton's mistakes began to snowball while Cary capitalized on every opportunity with the game winding down.

Going into the half, it was a hard-fought 16-7 game but Broughton looked tired and dejected after Cary ran all over them for most of the first three quarters. Broughton opened up the game seemingly intent of throwing the ball, scoring on their first offensive play, thanks to a trick play where Parrish Crowder found Wilson Purcell for a score from 55 yards out.

Cary's running attack responded quickly, moving down the field and capping the drive with a Henry plunge from two yards out. The Imps would hold Boughton scoreless for the rest of the first half while they tallied a 37-yard field goal and a one-yard touchdown run from senior Tommy Robinson, although they missed the point-after.

Early in the second half, Cary senior safety Donte Johnson scooped up a failed option pitch and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown, sparking the incredible firework display that was about to go off on the field. After Burris returned the kick 31 yards to midfield, Mangus got the Broughton ground game going; scoring on their first play of the second half from 50 yards away, although there was another unsuccessful extra point.

Cary responded again quickly, this time with a 30-yard run from sophomore Marquise Sherrod-Cooper, which was set up by a long Henry run. With the score at 30-13 and Burris already having two long kick returns of more than 40 yards; Cary tried to kick away from the star return man but after two kicks went out of bounds, Burris returned the kick all the way to the end zone. However, a penalty brought the score back; which only allowed Mangus to reel off another run of more than 50 yards: scoring this time from 57 yards out.

After that, though, Cary poured it on as Broughton's mental mistakes piled up. A bad snap on the punt sailed over the punter's head and out of the back of the end zone for Cary's next points and then Johnson returned a kick 73 yards for a score. With the game in hand, Cary began pounding the rock as Henry scored his second touchdown from 14 yards out and their scoring was capped off with a 24-yard scamper for a score from My'Shaun Fogg. Chris Whitley found paydirt from 14 yards out for Broughton as the game clock winded down.

Henry finished with 23 rushes for 175 yards and two scores while back-up Sherrod-Cooper made the most of his opportunities with eight carries for 68 yards and a touchdown. Mangus tallied eight carries, as well, totaling 175 yards on the ground and two touchdowns while adding a 12-yard reception. Burris unofficially finished with eight tackles and 128 yards on four kickoff returns while having the one that went for more than 80 yards and a score called back.

The Imps finished the game with 50 rushes for 297 yards while Broughton ran 23 times for 127 yards.

Scouting Cary:

Cary is completed loaded at running back; and it appears that it will stay that way for a while. Henry, a 5-9 and 160-pounder, is the headliner but the senior Robinson (an intimidating safety on the other side of the ball) scored a rushing touchdown, backup Sherrod-Cooper shined when he had opportunities and fullback R.J. Banks, a junior bowling ball at 5-7 and 190 pounds, cleared the way nicely while proving to have soft hands out of the backfield; leading the Imps with three catches for 26 yards.

However, Henry is clearly the focus of the Imp offense. While he may be a little undersized, he has phenomenal speed with an excellent burst and when he puts it into high gear, there aren't many high school players that will be able to catch him (Burris did run him down on one play). He runs very tough, bouncing off of would-be tacklers, and hits the hole with a purpose. The cuts he can make are phenomenal and he has excellent vision, which allows for his big carries. If he gets the corner, just get the kickoff return team ready. On this beautiful Friday night, ball security was not an issue for Henry. Although it appeared he fumbled after a long run in the third quarter, the referee ruled him down. Henry runs much bigger than his listed weight, being dragged down behind the line of scrimmage only four times (in 23 carries) despite Cary making it no secret that they intended to rush the ball and there being multiple instances where a defender made first contact at, or behind, the line of scrimmage. He just wore the defense down with his running style and he carries the ball with a low pad level.

Henry's backup, Sherrod-Cooper, also shined behind the Cary offensive line. The sophomore is listed at 5-11 and 165 pounds. He is also a tough runner, rarely being brought down by just one man. Once his frame fills out and he gets more opportunities, this should be a force for Cary's backfield. Keep your eyes on him in the future.

Senior safety Donte Johnson, a transfer from Clayton who earned all-conference honors last season, is also a player to watch out for. He and fellow senior safety/running back Robinson form one of the best backlines in the area and, possibly, the state. Both can bring the wood and are not afraid to come up from the safety position to make a play. Robinson was an all-conference linebacker who led the Imps in tackles last year but he is settling it at safety nicely. Johnson, however, was my defensive MVP. The good-sized safety has a nose for the ball: intercepting a pass while also scooping up a fumble and taking it to the house from 35 yards out. He also returned a kick for a score from 73 yards out.

Kicker Will Gilfillan made a 37-yard field goal with plenty of distance. It would have been good from at least the mid-40-yard range.

Scouting Broughton:

Although Broughton seemed reluctant to go to the running game, the junior Mangus showed off his track star speed and made the coaches keep coming back to the ground until the score forced them into passing situations.

Mangus is a home run threat every time he touches the ball and was clearly one of the fastest guys on the field. When he was breaking a run and looked to be in trouble, he found another gear and just blew by opponents. The coaches' desire to put the ball in the air early on is slightly confusing with the riches at running back, but Mangus dazzled everybody at the game on his eight chances. I would say that he is the real deal and it looks like he will inherit the kick and punt return duties once Burris moves on to the Pack. I look forward to seeing a game where Mangus gets more chances and he is really able to showcase what he can do.

Burris is simply a football player and as fast as advertised. He is always around the ball and makes good breaks, although it seemed he normally arrived after the receiver had caught the ball. He was a fairly sure tackler, though, I only counted one missed tackle and numerous times he was the lone defender with a chance to bring down the ball carrier. His pass defense is still a little of a mystery as Cary's game plan was clearly to run the ball and, when they did go to the air, it was normally a safe dump off to a back or tight end. Burris also possesses top-notch speed and quality vision on the returns. He had two catches for five yards and was targeted probably twice more but did not show much on offense. He did have a screen pass where he made a few tacklers miss but simply did not receive enough help from his blockers.

The biggest criticism of Burris would be that he falls into a trap that seems to haunt all defensive backs these days: diving at ball carriers' legs instead of using a form tackle. Although he was a fairly sure tackler (I counted only one instance where a back shook Burris), it was far from pretty. At the next level, he'll need to have his head up when taking on ball carriers or he'll just be diving at the air. Overall, though, Burris was impressive. He plays physically, doesn't shy away from contact on either side of the ball and has good size with even better speed.

One of the most encouraging series of plays from Burris came in the second quarter with Cary driving deep in Broughton territory. On first down from just outside the 20, Burris stopped Sherrod-Cooper after he sliced through the Broughton defense. With a new set of downs, Cary took to the air from the 11 and the safety provided tight pass coverage on the receiver, leading to an incomplete pass. On the next down, Burris made another tackle right around the three-yard line. The next play, a pitch to Henry, was sniffed out by the NC State commitment for a short gain but the Capital defense couldn't hold on the next down as Robinson plunged ahead for the one-yard score. That drive, though, showcased Burris' athleticism and instincts, which are both strong.

Tidbits from the game:

• Cary's junior quarterback Connor Chase was 10-of-13 for 75 yards with receivers dropping two of his attempts. It was a fairly conservative game plan through the air but the ball was on the money every time.
My'Shaun Fogg, a junior running back, scored on his lone carry from 24 yards out.
Wilson Purcell led all receivers with 55 yards through the air and the game's only receiving touchdown.
• Broughton junior linebacker Drew Davis was on the sidelines with his hand in a cast.

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