High School Sports

Get in the ring

Cordarrelle Patterson, right, with former Northwestern teammates Jared Neely, front, and Labris Adams.
Cordarrelle Patterson, right, with former Northwestern teammates Jared Neely, front, and Labris Adams.

Questions concerning Northwestern's football team were being tossed all over the place before the start of the season.

Would having Jimmy "Moose" Wallace back on the sideline make a big difference?

Could the Trojans win more than five games?

What would quarterback Will King do for an encore after an outstanding junior season?

Was there any way Northwestern could replace the talented group of wide receivers that caught King's passes last season?

The answers are yes, yes, yes and yes.

With Wallace in charge, the Trojans have regained their swagger. They are 8-1, 4-0 in Region 3-AAAA and ranked sixth in the latest Prep Writers and Associated Press polls.

King is doing fine on his way to becoming one of the most prolific passers in school history. He's already set single-season school records this year for passing yards (2,095) and touchdown passes (26).

To boil it down, South Pointe's secondary will be busy Friday trying to slow down the Trojans' "Air Raid'' offense at District Three Stadium.

King has a group of receivers that have given opponents fits. Any time he's questioned about his accomplishments, King is quick to point out that all he does is throw the ball to good receivers and gets good protection from his offensive line.

"It's awesome to have so many good receivers,'' King said. "I know if I get to them, they will make a play. They get to the ball and catch it if I'm a little off. We have formed a bond. I know where they'll be. They know where the other team's defense will be.''

Last year Shaun Chisholm, Juwan Benjamin and Antonio Dewese were King's primary targets, accounting for 1,325 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The most talked-about player of the group is Cordarrelle Patterson, a 6-foot, 200-pound junior who has matched the touchdown production of last year's top three with 13 among his 38 catches for 627 yards. His average of 16.5 yards per catch leads the team.

He's got good hands and wins most battles for possession, runs good routes and can go up and get the ball with his exceptional leaping ability.

"I've always been able to jump, but practice has made me a better receiver,'' Patterson said. "Everything about this offense is fun. I like catching the ball and taking it to the house. And I like going up over a defender and making a catch.''

King's favorite target has been junior tailback Jared Neely, who's prone to line up in the slot as a fourth receiver. He leads the team with 51 catches, some coming on short swing passes out of the backfield. He has 534 yards and five TDs.

Neely, a speedy 5-8, 169-pound junior, backed up senior starting tailback Marqueese Neely last year as the Trojans went for more balance. Marqueese Neely had 352 carries for 1,579 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.

Jared Neely had 29 carries for 167 yards and three TDs. He is the only returning player with a catch last season, two for 27 yards.

Northwestern has 221 rushing attempts this season for 746 yards. A portion of the carries came from King's scrambles.

"At the end of last season, I thought this year would be my time to run for 1,600 yards,'' Neely said. "When coach (Kyle) Richardson got here and told me my carries would go down, I was upset at first. But when he told me how many passes I'd catch, I felt a whole lot better.

"Now I'd just as soon catch a pass than run the ball. I like to get into the open spaces and run after making a catch. Coach Richardson does a good job of helping us find those spaces.''

Northwestern has thrown to 11 receivers who have accounted for 2,215 yards and 29 touchdowns -- Justin Worley has thrown two TD passes and Jared Neely one.

Nigel Dixon, Tyson Barnette and Julian Patton each have more than 100 receiving yards and have caught a touchdown pass.

Junior Labris Adams, another rangy receiver at 6-1, 178 pounds, has been a big contributor. Like the other two leaders, Adams has good hands, good speed and makes things happen after catching the ball.

He's hauled in 31 passes for 373 yards and seven touchdowns.

"Our offense allows a lot of players to be involved,'' Adams said. "If Cordarrelle or Jared get double-teamed, that means we have other receivers open.

"It works because Will puts the ball on the money. We enjoy playing with him and seeing him set records. We feel like every one he breaks is a record for all of us.''

Richardson, brought in to be the Trojans' offensive coordinator this season, said to make the "Air Raid'' attack work, a team must put skill players in the right spots.

That, he said, has been an ongoing process that is finally stable.

"We started looking for the right players in the spring, worked on it over the summer in passing leagues and went two or three weeks into the season before we had what we were looking for,'' Richardson said. "We had to see what pieces of the puzzle fit.

"In this offense, we call the plays and let Will make the reads on who to throw to. Our receivers never know when the ball's coming to them and do a good job of getting into position to make catches.''

• When: 8 p.m. Friday

• Where: District Three Stadium

• Tickets: $7. On sale 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. today in Northwestern's cafeteria, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday in the school's athletics office next to the baseball field. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

• Video: Northwestern and South Pointe practice highlights and player interviews.

• Audio interview: Barry Byers interviews Northwestern coach Jimmy Wallace and South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll about Friday's game.