Harnett Central head coach Mark Morris spoke highly of Fuquay-Varina, a team that was coming off a double-digit victory in its opener after winning the conference championship in 2005.
"Coach Riggs and his staff does a great job, and Fuquay is a hard team to beat here at home," said Morris. "Their kids played hard, and our kids play hard. We kind of grinded it out in the second half. We had a couple of big plays, and we were fortunate to win.
"We were trying to control the game up front, but Fuquay wasn't having it. It was a good football game, and two very good teams were on the field tonight. We were fortunate to come out with the win."
Cox proved to be the difference. Standing 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Cox is in full control operating out of Harnett Central's spread offense, and when the Trojans regained the lead in the third quarter you knew it would be tough for the Bengals to bounce back.
Cox rushed for 152 yards on 22 carries, scoring a pair of touchdowns on the ground, including a 30-yard run in the third period that gave the Trojans a 14-12 advantage. He was also efficient in the air, completing 8-of-9 passes for 109 yards, and had two huge completions on Harnett Central's two fourth-quarter scoring drives.
The Trojans started slow, but once the offensive line began to open up holes for Cox and tailback Kevin Snelling, the Bengals couldn't contain Harnett Central's high-powered attack.
"This was [our] arch [rival], and the game was very big," said Cox. "I wanted to score everytime I got the ball. I was a little disappointed in my line, but they did pretty good at the end."
|"His potential at offensive tackle is limitless."|
It also didn't help Fuquay-Varina's chances that defensive lineman Sam Jones was returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss the season opener. Because he is still not 100%, Jones played strictly offensive tackle, and he didn't enter the game until the beginning of the second quarter. At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, he would have been a major factor for the Bengals along the defensive front but instead his impact was felt on offense.
On his first play, Jones opened a gaping hole for tailback Cory Mixon, as the senior scored on a 36-yard run to put Fuquay ahead 7-0. Jones flashed his natural athleticism and upside throughout the contest, but he is still a work in progress as he continues to improve on his technique. However, he plays with a mean streak and really gets after it, and although he will begin his career at NC State as a defensive lineman, his potential at offensive tackle is limitless.
As far as college prospects go, they don't get much better than Jones. His measurables, mean streak, and upside (he's just 16 years old) makes him arguably one of the top two or three offensive line prospects in the state, should he be projected to play there.
The star of the night was still Cox. He can impact the game with his arm or his legs, and when his high school career is over it will be interesting to see what position he plays on the next level. Will he remain at quarterback? Could he make the transition to wide receiver, where his size, speed, and agility would make him a nightmare for opposing defensive backs? Slight at 220 pounds with a frame that suggests he can get much bigger, will he add the weight and potentially play tight end or even defensive end?
Cox is a true prospect, and he is the type of target teams covet. It doesn't matter what position he plays because he is a great football player that can help any program with his ability.
He pointed out that his recruitment remains the same, as teams such as NC State, East Carolina, Clemson, and South Carolina all remain in the mix. He has an upcoming unofficial visit to NC State for the Wolfpack's season opener, and he did state that currently he has a timeframe for making a decision.
"I'll probably go to the first NC State home game," said Cox. "Sometime during my season I'm going to make a decision."
Next up for Harnett Central is a game against Smithfield-Selma, and Fuquay-Varina heads on the road to face Overhills High School.