Essex eager to shake off 2012, opens at Sunshine

Anthony McIntosh readies to take a snap from Jarvis Edwards as D.J. Bennett dots the I of the formation near the end of the team's practice Tuesday.

Anthony McIntosh readies to take a snap from Jarvis Edwards as D.J. Bennett dots the I of the formation near the end of the team’s practice Tuesday.

After a tumultuous 2012 that resulted in the forfeiture of the team’s final three contests of the season, John Essex is set to take the field Friday night in its season opener at Sunshine High.

“The kids have already placed last year behind them and are very excited about the possibilities of this season,” new Essex head coach Keonn Nettles said. “Football is very important to my players and being back on the field gives them the opportunity to finally leave last season in the past for good.”

The Hornets field a roster of 13 players as they head into their opener. Anthony McIntosh returns as the team’s starting quarterback. The junior will also see time at wideout in the JEHS offense.

Sopomores Lamar Kirk and Antwain Gracie along with freshman James Reeves will man receiver spots in the Hornets’ spread attack. Junior Timothy Jones brings the most experience to the Essex receiving corps.

While senior D.J. Bennett will split out wide some, he will serve as the Hornets’ primary tailback. Helping to pave the way for Bennett will be senior fullback Markeise Tucker.

The Essex line consists of seniors Jarvis Edwards and Jaylon Worthy, junior Kelton Perkins, sophomore Shawn Essex and freshman Christopher Williams.

Senior D.J. Bennett sets to haul in a pass during Tuesday's practice.

Senior D.J. Bennett sets to haul in a pass during Tuesday’s practice.

The Hornets will see Kirk, Essex, Gracie, Edwards, Perkins and Williams anchor the team’s 4-3 defensive approach from the line positions. Linebackers will consists of Tucker and Worhty while Bennett, McIntosh, Jones and freshman Quantavious Charleston handle the secondary duties.

“Our biggest challenge is simply staying healthy,” Nettles said. “We are not afforded the luxury of an abundance of players, so the one we have need to stay healthy all season.”

After a scarce summer practice schedule, the Hornets got their scrimmage last week in a Jamboree contest against Francis Marion. That game saw Essex come up on the short side of a 28-8 score.

“The most important thing I learned is that if we play hard and minimize our mistakes, we have a chance to have a very special season,” Nettles said of what he gleaned from the exhibition contest with FMHS. “the things that have impressed me most are their determination to do well and the will they have to do whatever is necessary to help our team win. Even the young guys are stepping up and playing whatever position is asked of them.”

The Hornets are 14-8 all time against Sunshine, winning the teams’ most recent meeting a season ago by an 18-10 margin.