By Brad Crawford
August 19, 2013
RED SPRINGS RED DEVILS
COACH: George Coltharp
2012: 10-4 (5-0 Three Rivers). Lost in third round of playoffs at James Kenan
KEY RETURNERS: Blake Greene (Sr., QB), Markeiss Blue (Sr., LB), CJ McGeachy (Sr., WR), Jedarian Lesane (Sr., RB), Terry Collins (Jr., OL)
NO. OF PLAYERS IN TOP 25: 6
PROJECTED FINISH: 11-3
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RED SPRINGS — Stripped of the football, Blake Greene trotted back to the sideline in disgust.
On the ensuing possession, an interception ended another Red Springs drive.
Turnovers and tackling problems resulted in disappointment again last November, the second straight third-round playoff loss for a program a few weeks earlier had clinched its first conference championship in eight years.
“The whole point is getting over that hump and getting to the fourth round or more,” Greene said. “We have to have a better mindset and work harder. Details make champions.”
For as good as the Red Devils have been since the start of the 2011 season with 20 wins in 27 games, the abnormalities against other ranked teams is alarming. Led by a high-powered passing game and defense that attacks with constant pressure, something hasn’t clicked after the second round and Red Springs has spent all summer trying to pinpoint the problem.
Last year’s 27-point postseason loss in Warsaw canceled plans to appear in the 1A title game and left more to be desired for the program’s host of returning players. Senior linebacker Markeiss Blue said the 535 rushing yards his defense gave up was embarrassing as the Three Rivers’ champion.
“That whole week before James Kenan, our focus wasn’t there and it showed on the field,” Blue said. “We needed to buckle down and listen to our coaches. They know what they’re doing and we didn’t get it done. We couldn’t stop them.”
To say the Red Devils have unfinished business after losing their composure on the road is a bit cliche, but that’s where the program stands heading into coach George Coltharp’s third season. He’s proved he can win with less and will have to do so again this fall after a mass exodus of assistant coaches traveled across county to Lumberton during the offseason.
Air Raid mastermind Joe Salas, who is now leading the 4A Pirates, left Red Springs to take head job at West Bladen following the 2011 season while two other assistants — Ron Cook and Lawrence Ches — packed their bags to join Salas’ staff a year later.
The one constant during Coltharp’s tenure is Greene, a dynamic playmaker who hasn’t missed a start in 34 games and adds a handful of wins to any program with his presence on the field. He’s coming off the best single offensive season in Robeson County football history, but it’s his work ethic and ability to interact with teammates that makes Coltharp’s job that much easier.
“He’s still as humble as the first day I met him,” Coltharp said, referring back to a conversation with Greene after he was groomed as a freshman in 2010 by then-coach Eric Puryear. “He can almost call a game himself at this point. That’s how well he knows football and what’s happening around him. For him, it’s all about demeanor and decision-making. I think everything has slowed down and he’s ready to dominate.”
Greene will be the first to say personal milestones don’t mean much heading into his final season. Despite being only 51 touchdowns away from becoming North Carolina’s second all-time points producer, he’s more worried about leaving a lasting impression on new teammates and the Red Springs community than he is moving past Albemarle’s T.A. McLendon as one of the state’s most prolific players ever.
Replicating nearly 5,000 yards of total offense as a senior without reliable options Zach Leach and Zach Jones in the passing game will be quite a burden on the 5-foot-10 signal caller. Tight end Dwayne Fairley, Jameson Baker in the slot and deep threat CJ McGeachy are this season’s starting receivers.
Jedarian Lesane’s back to shoulder the load in the run game.
“Everyone is working hard to get where we want to be,” Lesane said, last year’s leading rusher in the area. “I’m not worried about our offense.”
Greene’s confident the new pass-catching trio blossoms into one of the county’s best by midseason.
“We’re always going to have athletes around here and as the season goes, players get better,” Greene said. “It might take some time for them to adjust, but they’ll be fine.”
Added Coltharp: “You buy new furniture and it’s in the house, but you still have to polish it.”
With questions at wide receiver and four newcomers along the offensive line, Red Springs has a long way to go before Coltharp’s ready to deem this year’s squad state championship-caliber. He is however excited about the future of Red Devil football and what his group of defending conference champions have in store during Greene’s final campaign.
“Our No. 1 goal first and foremost is to have fun,” Coltharp said. “We’ve told them all summer to sign the contract. Sign on and let’s take this as far as we can take it.”
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS or using the hashtag #ROBCOFB.