1st down coming with varsity team

The Cannon School football team has never played a down of varsity football.

Next month that will change.

Cannon, led by third-year coach Donnie Hayes, expects to be a strong team and a contender in the NCISAA from the start.

"We know it's going to be a huge challenge," said Hayes. "But if you're talking to our kids, they want to make the playoffs and compete for a state title this year. Right now, that is everyone's goal."

The Cougars, who will play in a 2A freelance conference, have had a solid start to their program, as the junior varsity team went a perfect 5-0 in 2008, before finishing with a 6-1 mark last season. Most of the same Cannon team that has played together in JV the past two seasons will make up the Cougars' inaugural varsity team.

"We're just ready to get out on the field and play some football," said Hayes.

Junior quarterback Justin Redfern, a three-year starter, will lead a double-wing offense that features three running backs and two tight ends on most plays. Redfern will have a lot to do on every play, having to get the ball to the right person, execute a series of misdirection fakes and sometimes keep the ball for his own runs.

Redfern will have help in the backfield as classmates Mason McClanahan and Will Nork join him as the team's top two wingbacks. Both McClanahan and Nork could see the ball more than 15 to 20 times a game as the Cougars run early and often.

The Cougars don't throw the ball a lot, but when they do, junior tight end Julian Nunez will be the top target.

The Cannon offensive line will also be a big factor in that equation as they beat people with technique and speed, not size.

Only right tackle, Jamie Jackson (6-2, 260) has any size, but Wil Saferit, Matt Savero, Jake Marchant and Kevin Ross are all experienced as a unit.

"We feel like we have the right amount of talent and experience on offense to be able to consistently control the line of scrimmage," said Hayes.

While the Cougars offense looks ready to go, the defense has more to prove.

With only 36 players on the roster, a lot of players will be expected to go both ways on the 4-3 base unit that sometimes may look more like a 4-4 front.

The defensive line should be solid with Concord transfer, 6-foot-2, 255-pound Wesley Scott leading the way

The linebacking corps is by far the most experienced with McClanahan and Nork being the standouts, and juniors Will Keenan and Ryan Worgan filling out the group.

The defensive backfield has been a weakness in the past, but Concord transfer Jason Willix should help out at corner.

And no matter what Cannon does on the field, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the sport.

"I don't think people at Cannon quite know what it is going to be like," said Hayes. "Once you get out under those lights on Friday nights, it is just something special."