Changes are afoot for Harnett Central’s football program as Cory Barnes heads into his first year at the helm.
ANGIER — Changes are afoot for Harnett Central’s football program.
The roster takes on a sizable overhaul due to graduation, while also welcoming new leadership.
First-year coach Cory Barnes isn’t using inexperience and initiation as excuses, however, with the regular-season debut sitting just a week away.
“We got to grow up fast,” Barnes said following a recent practice. “We’re a young team, but we definitely got to grow up, up front, and be able to be physical at the point of attack.”
Physicality wasn’t among the issues that plagued a 2-7 Central squad last season, with All-Record performers Khalil McLean and Xavier Bailey providing an imposing line. Their graduation saw a combined six sacks and 24 tackles for loss depart with them.
The offense loses its leading receiver, 6-foot-3 wideout Chris Mills, as well as its most versatile weapon in Quez Jones, who was just short of 1,000 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns.
Tay’Shawn Moore, the Trojans’ leading rusher, is one of three important seniors that are tasked with guiding this year’s herd.
It’s a responsibility fresh in the mind of Moore, who was just in the reverse role last fall and getting his first taste of varsity ball.
“At first, I thought it was gonna be harder,” said the speedy back who broke out for a team-leading 1,005 all-purpose yards, 919 coming on the ground. “I bonded with the teammates ... because they’re my family.”
The first-team All-Record selection now joins fellow upperclassmen lineman Chris Hampton and Jahlil Surles in sustaining that family atmosphere.
Moore says that camaraderie begins with teaching younger players lessons he had to learn early in his career, such as no “cheating” in the weight room and being accountable every day.
“Whatever you do at practice, do in the games. That’s where it starts ... in practice,” Moore said. “Be disciplined and stopping be a ‘me’ person – (commit) to the team.”
Barnes is encouraged by the motivational qualities of his two-way standout, who will also start at defensive back. Moore has also led by example, packing on extra muscle and improving his catching skills, which should pay dividends in the new head man’s spread-option scheme.
“He’s a leader. He really takes pride in being the guy that players look to,” Barnes said. “He’s a great kid, he’s a smart kid ... and I’m glad he’s here. He’s gonna start pushing us in the right direction.”
Hired in March following a four-year stint at Midway where he posted a 23-18 record with two state playoff appearances, Barnes is embracing what he calls a talented crop of youngsters. He looks forward to capitalizing on the intelligence of junior quarterback Aiden Taylor, who he thinks is capable of making the offense click at a level similar to his time in Spivey’s Corner.
Ultimately, he says year one is defined by the results on Friday nights as Central tries to climb the All American Conference ranks.
“Success is winning games. There’s different ways to define that, but at the end of the day, you want to win football games,” said Barnes.
“We were picked (to finish) next to last in the league (by AAC coaches) ... If we can figure out the trenches, I think we can be a sleeper.”
The Trojans begin the new slate of games Aug. 19, hitting the road for a non-league matchup with West Johnston.
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-230-2040.