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Lexington seeking to set a fast pace

Lexington kicker Griffin Gray kicks the ball during a kick-off return drill at practice Thursday morning. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

Lexington’s football players lined up for a quick water break Thursday, the first official day of practice, and as they assembled back on the field one of the offensive players shouted, “Let’s go to the end zone!”

Nobody would have a problem with that.

“It’s going well,” said Lexington coach Chuck Henderson, who welcomed 61 players. “Had a great day today. It rained a little last night, made the grass grow and God gave us a great day to have a football practice.”

Henderson is in his first year as Lexington’s coach but he’s hardly new to the area, spending the last three years as the coach at Asheboro. Prior to that, Henderson was the coach at Ledford for seven years.

The Yellow Jackets went through various sets of drills, including 7-on-7s. Offensive line coach Chris Martin, who played for Henderson at Ledford, worked closely with some players off to the side. Secondary coach Ray Horton barked instructions constantly. Spirits were high all around.

“That’s a good thing,” Henderson said. “They’re fired up, excited and ready to play. Looking forward to getting ready to play Monroe in three weeks.”

It’s the beginning of a brutal non-conference schedule.

Monroe went to the fourth round of the 1-AA state playoffs. After that game, Lexington plays Newton-Conover, Davie County, North Davidson, Statesville and Carver before entering the Central Carolina Conference portion of the schedule.

“It’s pretty much a murderer’s row,” Henderson said. “We’re going to compete. If we’ve got to play the New England Patriots we’re going to game plan on Sunday and be ready to compete on Friday.”

Lexington is coming off a 3-8 season.

The Yellow Jackets have their share of talent as always. Seniors Raekwon Byrd and Shakeem Peterson-Brock and junior Nick Shuping are battling to see who will be the starting quarterback. All three made good throws and runs out of the spread offense. Peterson-Brock, a transfer from Thomasville, was All-County as a sophomore.

Practice was fast-paced throughout and that’s by design.

“We want to practice fast because that simulates the pace of the game,” Henderson said. “You’ve got 25 seconds between plays. The defense rarely gets that long because the offense is rushing to the line to get off a play. We’re going to practice fast because we’re going to play fast.”

In addition to Horton, holdovers from the previous staff include Keith Hargrave, Tim Holt and Charles Norman. Charles Morman is back on the staff after a one-year absence.

The defensive coordinator is Todd Shuping, who has vast experience as a head coach. Shuping, who was on the R.J. Reynolds staff last year, was a head coach at Central Davidson, East Forsyth, Grimsley and Providence Grove. Shuping coached Grimsley to the 4-A state championship game in 2005.

“It’s a coup,” Henderson said.

And another new beginning for Shuping.

“I think it’s a an exciting opportunity,” Shuping said. “I’m real excited about being here in Lexington. We’ve got a very good group of kids.”

Henderson had tried for years to get Shuping on his staff.

“I’ve known him for 26 years,” Henderson said. “His first job was on my dad’s staff at Western Guilford when I was a senior in high school. For the last 10 years we’ve been trying to work it out. We thought we did three years ago at Asheboro but the stars didn’t align right. The stars aligned right this time.”

Martin, fresh out of college at Appalachian State, will be a social studies teacher at Lexington.

“He’s going to do a real good job for us,” Henderson said.

Practice resumes for Lexington Friday. The first two days of practice are limited to headgear, shorts and football shoes. Shoulder pads can be added in days 3-5 but no body-to-body contact is permitted. Teams are limited to three hours of practice, including breaks and stretching, during the first five days.

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