DJ Jones described the first day in pads before his senior season at Northeast in a unique way.
“It’s bittersweet,” said a smiling Jones, who will play both center and nose guard for the Raiders. “I mean, it’s my last first day on the football field at Northeast. I am so excited to get the season going, but I know this is it as far as high school goes, so I want to make every moment special.
“I think we have a team that can make the playoffs and then make some noise in the playoffs.”
Northeast is coming off of a three-win season, and it did not make the playoffs for the first time in five years. The Raiders had a chance going into the final game of the season against Monticello and led 28-10 in the second quarter but ended up losing 54-37.
“That game was typical of our entire season because we just could not stay healthy,” said Northeast head coach Bruce Mullen, who is in his 12th season as the Raiders’ head coach. “We had four players go down with knee injuries last year, and in the last game, we were down to playing with hardly any linebackers. It was a frustrating year, but hopefully, we will have everyone healthy and ready to go by the start of the season.”
Mullen’s team starts the season with just three offensive starters and only four players who played on offense last year. The quarterback job is up for grabs between senior Tamario Tufts and freshman Nolan Ussery, and the new running back will be Philip Thomas, who spent most of his time last year playing safety.
To help the running game, the Raiders have moved bruising Zamarian Howard to fullback. One of the few returners from last year will be playmaking wide receiver Christopher Spencer.
“I know as a senior it’s my time to step up and be a leader both on the field and off the field,” said Spencer, who also will start on defense. “I know that the team needs me to make plays this year, and I have worked hard all summer to be ready for the season. We have a bunch of good football players here.
“I haven’t even thought about our first game yet. We just want to go one at a time.”
ABOUT THE NORTHEAST RAIDERS
Head coach: Bruce Mullen (61-54 in 11 seasons overall and at Northeast).
Assistant coaches: Jeremy Wiggins (offensive coordinator); Darryl Silas (defensive coordinator), Kelvin Oliver, Leon Pope, Percy Charlton, Robbie Mays, Rogderick Worthy, Willie Morgan, David Peterson.
Offensive scheme: Pro-I.
Defensive scheme: 4-3.
2014 record: 3-7.
Region: GHSA 4-AA.
Returning starters: Three on offense; four on defense.
Players to watch: Christopher Spencer (Sr., FS/WR); Philip Thomas (Jr., RB/SS); JacQuez Durham (Jr., WR); DJ Jones (Sr., C/NT).
Aug. 28 vs. Southwest
Sept. 3 vs. Rutland
Sept. 11 Upson-Lee
Sept. 18 Shaw
Sept. 25 Manchester
Oct. 9 at Putnam County
Oct. 16 Lamar County
Oct. 23 at Macon County
Oct. 30 at Bleckley County
Nov. 6 Monticello