NEWTON — In its first tune-up for the rapidly approaching regular season, the Freedom football team found success on both sides of the ball.
The Patriots traveled to Newton-Conover late Saturday to scrimmage against Forestview and the host Red Devils. And though the event ultimately was cut a little short by lightning, Freedom looked solid against both teams.
Despite the inclement weather, the Patriots still were able to get in a full 12-minute game-style scrimmage against the Jaguars, and got 10 minutes apiece on offense and defense against both Forestview and Newton-Conover in the more controlled environment of the scrimmage’s early portion.
In the game scenario versus Forestview, Freedom had the ball first and began the drive with a strong 11-yard run from junior running back Chase Young. A Jayden Birchfield completion to Desmond Caldwell and a Birchfield run moved the ball past midfield before the senior quarterback found Caldwell on a 46-yard scoring strike down the left sideline.
The defense looked just as good, starting with a Damien Dula tackle for loss before forcing an incomplete pass and allowing minimal yardage on a third-down completion to force a punt.
Before time expired on the session during the Patriots’ second drive, a couple Young runs and a couple jet sweep plays moved Freedom back in striking distance. Another tough run up the middle from Young and two more completions from Birchfield (6 for 7) to Caldwell had Freedom knocking on the door before the buzzer sounded.
“We’re experienced this year,” said FHS second-year head coach Luke Little. “We expect to be able to move the ball. The biggest thing early (in the regular season opener versus Shelby) will be tackling and spacing. You don’t get in in practice, you get it more out here.
“The more we can do that, the better we’ll get at it.”
The offense was mostly efficient in the 10-minute sessions, as well, with Birchfield finding a variety of receivers, including Saiveon Pitman for a short touchdown against Newton-Conover.
“Our passing game is going to be fine,” Little said. “We’ve added some stuff to it, with more pocket passing. Chase in the backfield is definitely a plus with the way he can run and catch it out of the backfield. We’ve got an athletic H-back this year with Bryce Griffith. He caught a couple passes on that drive. Throwing the ball should be fine, just like we were last year.”
Little also described his run game as being more explosive this year, with Young being a big part of that. Young drove in for a one-yard score in the 10-minute session against Forestview, and a handful of hard runs from Cam Silvers also highlighted the scrimmage.
“I’m grateful. It’s once in a lifetime that you get to run behind the Freedom line,” said Young, who sat out last season rehabilitating an injury. “We’re going to keep pushing. I’m going to keep running the ball hard for my team and get us places.”
Another defensive standout for Freedom was senior lineman Dayonte Roddy, who notched both a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in early action against the Jaguars.
Justin Epley can be reached at email@example.com or 828-443-9042.