North Surry has a daunting task tonight, taking on the defending state champ, but two defenders already have left their marks on the football program.
A defensive lineman is posting one of the best marks in school history on tackles for loss, while a linebacker has reached 300 career tackles and is two shy of the school single-season mark.
Danny Lyons said between being an assistant coach and now head coach, he has been part of the program for a dozen years. He said as far as he can determine from school records, linebacker Casey Hull is now the school’s all-time tackle leader with 305. Hull hit the 300 mark against Forbush in the regular-season finale.
Even more impressive is that Hull did this in three seasons.
“Casey came in as a fairly thin freshman,” recalled Lyons. He had a good year on JV, but the idea was to keep him there for his sophomore year, too.
When some injuries hit North, Lyons decided to promote Hull for the third game of that season. In just nine games, Hull posted 86 tackles, nearly 10 tackles a game. That was good enough to earn honorable mention on the all-conference team.
As a junior, Hull had 110 tackles, which tied the school record held by Jason King from 2011, said Lyons. That gave him a first-team all-conference honor.
This year, Hull missed two games (Atkins and West Stanly), but still has 109, so he is one shy of his own mark. The coaches already have met to vote on all-conference honors; the announcement hasn’t come yet, but likely Hull has his second first-team award.
The biggest win of the season was beating West Stokes, Lyons believed. In that game Hull had 16 tackles, and 11 of those were solo. He also had an interception in the fourth quarter to help preserve the win. Lyons called it the best single-game performance he has seen from a linebacker.
Casey isn’t a big guy at 6-foot-2 and a slim 190 pounds, noted Lyons. However the will linebacker still got guys to the ground, even making plays in space. If he plays in college next year, the team could pack another 20 pounds of muscle on him.
Casey is a smart kid who made the defensive calls on the field the past two seasons, and he’s great in the classroom, said the coach. He has drawn some interest from colleges at both the D-2 and D-3 levels. He has the discipline and grades to make it in college.
Over the past three seasons, the points allowed has gone down from 26 points to 23 to 20 thanks to Hull and his partner in crime, defensive tackle Nic Huff.
Nic moved up to varsity in about the fourth week of his freshman year and has been a mainstay on the line.
As a tackle, Huff’s job was to take up blockers so that Hull could roam free. Still, Huff managed to post 78 tackles, third-best on the team. He also posted six sacks and a whopping 34 tackles behind the line. Lyons believes this is a school record for stuffs.
Mount Airy has a good team, but Nic helped keep the game competitive for three quarters by disrupting plays in the backfield. At 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, Huff broke through the line and made seven tackles for loss in one game.
Nic is extremely strong so if he gets a hand on someone, he can bring them down with an arm tackle, said the coach.
Joining varsity as a freshman, it isn’t surprising that Nic still had some maturing to do both mentally and emotionally, the coach pointed out. He would get pumped up for the big games, but not show the same intensity and focus for every game.
“When Nic Huff comes to play, he’s as good as anyone we’ve had on the defensive front,” said Lyons.
His junior year opponents game-planned to run away from Nic, but for this season Lyons moved the lineman around to keep the blockers off-balance.
Nic has come a long way, said Lyons. He struggled in the classroom, but has worked hard to slowly get better.
Lyons said he has been working to see where Huff could play next year, saying a junior college might be a good choice.
In order to get his name out there, Nic and his dad have traveled to camps all over the South, including a combine in RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., he said.
Huff impressed scouts enough in those workouts to get an invitation to play in the Blue-Gray All-American Bowl.
The game is on a Saturday afternoon, Jan. 14 at the Jaguars’ home stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
At 280 pounds, Nic doesn’t run the 40-yard dash very well, but he has good quickness off the line and performed well in shuttle drills, said Lyons. More than 6,700 players attended those workouts with Nic, so getting selected is an honor.
As for tonight, Lyons knows his team faces a very tough opponent.
Shelby is undefeated this season and is a three-time state champion going for four straight.
A few years back, North was knocked out of the playoffs by High Point Andrews, who went on to win the state title. Lyons said from the film he’s watched, this team looks noticeably better than Andrews.
Meanwhile, Mount Airy, East Surry and Surry Central are at home tonight.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.