Jackets switching to pistol offense
After going 8-3 in the regular season but losing a heartbreaker in the first round of the playoffs (47-46) to Central Davidson, the Yellow Jackets have made some changes in the offseason.
"We're in a new system and it's working OK," said John Lowery, who is entering his 28th season as FH's head coach. "We have to shore up some spots. We have to do a better job on the edge. We didn't do a good job of containing the edge. We had some bad coverages. Some of that is recognition by the staff and some of that is recognition by the kids. They have to see things on the field. That's just maturity and growing up."
Lowery tries to give his team as many challenges as he can find when it comes to scheduling. He wasn't thrilled by what he's seen in the Jackets' two preseason scrimmages, but likes it when his team's weaknesses are exposed.
"I don't know maybe sometimes my philosophy, I want to make sure we're getting what we're supposed to get done," Lowery said. "Maybe I need to push them a little bit harder and get somethings done a little quicker."
Forest Hills has made the playoffs 25 years in a row, and have produced Union County's only football state championship in the 50-plus years (1984).
But the program's rich history doesn't overcome the bitter taste of losing the last game of the regular season with the conference championship on the line to archrival Monroe the past two years.
The Yellow Jackets have enough fire power to challenge the Redhawks for the RRC title this season.
The journey begins Friday night when Fh travels to Anson County.
With fourth-year starter Jared Lee behind center and junior tailback CJ Carelock, the Yellow Jackets return one of the more potent running games in the county.
The two combined for 2,257 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns in 2012.
The Yellow Jackets are moving to a pistol offense.
It's been an adjustment for Lee, but he feels this could be a high-octane offense.
"Most of the change is in the boots and things like that," Lee said. "Our offense is good. Everybody is learning and picking it up well. It's going to be fast this year."
The Yellow Jackets reached the endzone three times in their final scrimmage. Lee noticed how much of an adjustment it was for the players against outside competition.
"Going against somebody else is kind of new to us. We have to get used to it, especially with the formation we're running," Lee said. "The scrimmages went pretty good we just have to get better."
Among Lee's targets in the passing game are senior BJ Ashcraft and Quan Davis.
Ashcraft is the Yellow Jackets' top returning receiver after making 15 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns last year.
The Jackets had just 694 passing yards and seven aerial TDs in 12 games last season, and Lowery knows those numbers must increase to keep the safeties from keying on the run.
"(Lee)'s a good player," Lowery said. "He threw the ball poorly (in Friday's scrimmage) and I don't know why he did that. We didn't catch the ball; we had some easy tosses that we dropped. You've got to start getting in the flow of the game. Overall, I'm pleased with what we're doing."
Carelock is a bruising back (6-2, 220) with the speed to break away. He burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2012 by gaining 1,088 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and rushing for 16 scores.
The Yellow Jackets' defense is a veteran group with five seniors and six juniors starting.
Forest Hills gave up 23.5 points per game on the defensive side of the ball last year.
Junior safety Tyler White had three interceptions and 28 tackles last season, and cornerback Tyrus Huntley had 21 tackles and one interception.
"I feel really confident this year," White said. "We have most of our defensive backs back. I feel confident in this defense. We have little tweaks here and there but we're running. We'll be good."
Lowery wants to see better communication on defense.
"We just have to learn to play together," he said. "We have some kids that are pretty decent football players over there but they have to learn to play together. They have to trust each other. We have some things that they didn't recognize that they're supposed to (in the second scrimmage). Part of that is being able to scrimmage against other competition. We're going to make mistakes and you expect everybody to make some mistakes early."
White saw some of those problems but expects them to be fixed in practice in the week leading up to the first game.
White has been impressed with the Jackets' defensive front, which averages just over 6 feet and 232 pounds.
"The DB's have to make sure we are playing pass first," White said. "Our line is really good so I am not complaining. We just have to get better every day."
White, who will also run the ball and catch passes on offense, thinks the defense will be the backbone of the team.
"I feel like this defense could go a long way this year," White said. "I feel like we can do some real special things with this defense. I'm just trying to make sure we're in the right place. I'm trying to make sure I stay ahead of the game and bring my team with me."
The Yellow Jackets will also lean on linebacker Deshaw Coffey, who had 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a defensive end a season ago.
Lee will also help as a safety and CJ Carelock will play some linebacker, but probably not as much in the first half of the season.
Forest Hills Yellow Jackets Projected Starters
Forest Hills 2013 schedule
Aug. 23^at Anson
Sept. 6^Central Pageland
Sept. 13^at Piedmont
Sept. 27^North Rowan
Oct. 11^at Mt. Pleasant
Oct. 25^West Stanly
Nov. 1^at Central Academy
Nov. 8^at Monroe
Forest Hills 2012 results
Forest Hills 32, Anson 26
Weddington 47, Forest Hills 19
Porter Ridge 38, Forest Hills 6
Forest Hills 31, Parkwood 12
Forest Hills 51, West Stanly 0
Forest Hills 37, Cuthbertson 31
Forest Hills 32, Piedmont 20
Forest Hills 42, Union Academy 6
Forest Hills 74, Central Academy 20
Forest Hills 52, North Stanly 7
Monroe 28, Forest Hills 23
2012 2AA Playoffs
Central Davidson 47, Forest Hills 46