Revived Jackets go for third in a row

Lexington quarterback Raekwon Byrd looks to pass against Davie County on Sept. 7. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

Lexington, badly battered in nonconference play against much bigger schools, had the chance to reset its football season during the Central Carolina Conference play and Yellow Jackets so far have seized the opportunity.

The Yellow Jackets, 3-5 overall and 2-0 in the CCC, are in a three-way tie for first place and can remain at the top with a victory at perennial power Salisbury on Friday night.

“I’ve said all along it would take me time to build the program here to what I was used to in Knoxville,” said first-year Lexington coach Kwayu Graham. “I knew it was going to be a couple of years. But this is the kind of game that can transcend that. Overnight, you can build something.”

It won’t be easy.

Salisbury, 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the CCC, has won four straight and the Hornets are scoring points in gobs with their read-option, wishbone-style attack.

“Salisbury is a great team, well-coached,” Graham said. “Their scheme is sound. You have to be fundamentally sound and stop what they do because they have the speed to beat you with one play. Their offense is for teams that don’t have a lot of athletes. But they have athletes, so it’s a double-edged sword.”

Justin Ruffin leads the Hornets with 740 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. Quarterback Brian Bauk has run for 552 yards and eight touchdowns and thrown for 402 yards and five TDs. Max Allen has 495 yards rushing and five TDs.

Lexington’s revival began with a 29-15 win over East Davidson. It wasn’t pretty and the Jackets were within a couple of plays of losing before rallying. But they put away West Davidson 40-17 last Friday and star running back Marquez Grayson, who missed the last four nonconference games with a high ankle sprain, got back up to speed with 155 yards on the ground against the Green Dragons.

Lexington is also an aerial threat as quarterback Raekwon Byrd has thrown for 785 yards. Wide receiver Mel Covington is a big-play threat with 21 catches for 411 yards and three TDs.

And what happened to Salisbury’s defense last week suggests Lexington could exploit the Hornets’ defense. Salisbury beat Central Davidson 45-35 last Friday but Spartan tailback Saig Skeen gouged them for 182 yards and three touchdowns on the ground caught two touchdown passes.

That comes against a backdrop of Lexington finally getting up to full strength with several players recovering from injuries.

“We’re excited,” Graham said. “The kids played well last week. We’re getting a lot of kids healthy, finding spots to put them in that are the best fit for our team right now.”

Graham started playing right tackle Caleb Worley on both sides of the ball in the East Davidson. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound senior is an imosing presence at nose guard and will continue to see time on defense.

“He’s doing a good job,” Graham said. “At this point of the season, we’re going to put the best 11 players out there who can play.”

West Davidson at Thomasville

The Green Dragons, 3-4 overall and 0-2 in the CCC, are trying to stop a four-game skid and keep their playoff hopes alive against a surging Thomasville squad. Sophomore tailback Kyle Smith leads the Dragons with 820 yards rushing, third best in the county, and Austin Teague has taken over as the starting quarterback.

Thomasville, 2-6 overall and 2-0 in the CCC, has beaten Central Davidson 42-21 and East Davidson 24-0 after opening the season with six straight losses. Senior tailback Gabe Brockett is second in the county with 870 yards rushing, with a vast majority of that coming in the last two weeks.

Central Davidson at East Davidson

Both teams are looking to get out of the CCC cellar and take a step toward becoming eligible for the playoffs.

Central, 4-4 overall and 0-2 in the conference, has a potent double wing offense led by Skeen. The Spartans have also displayed an increased ability to throw, with quarterback Nathan Dennis finding 6-5 wide receiver Chris Pompey an attractive target.

East, 2-6 overall and 0-2 in the conference, will get quarterback Austin Wallace back on the field at least for some snaps. Wallace, who leads the county with 1,535 yards passing, missed last week’s 24-0 loss to Thomasville after suffering a concussion against Lexington.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or