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May 30, 2013

NFC sets its sights high in 2013

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We conclude our 30 stops in 30 days in Tallahassee with North Florida Christian.

After a state title and 13-0 season in 2011, the Eagles had a down year last year at 7-4 but were still able to get to the postseason, before falling to eventual state champion Jacksonville University Christian in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs.

However, the Eagles lost wide receiver Branton Lee (Southern Miss signee) to an ACL in August (preseason), Rivals' three-star running back Jonathan Vickers was out the whole year with a broken leg, free safety Chandler Hutchinson went down in Week #3 with an ACL, quarterback Justin Moore broke his leg in Week #7 against Florida High and they lost linebacker Taylor Williams to a back injury in Week #5.

All things considered - losing 19 seniors from that state title team two years ago, plus losing five starters to season-ending injuries last year, the Eagles only trailed UCS by seven points with six minutes to play in the game.

"Last year was just one of those years that I think all coaches have to go through," said head coach Robert Craft, who is now 26-8 in three seasons at NFC. "I am extremely proud of how hard they fought. They overcome a lot of adversity."

NFC's top returning player on offense is Vickers (6-foot-2, 215 lbs.), who currently holds offers from Florida State, Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Louisville. The senior had 206 yards rushing in only three quarters of action in the spring game.

"He had a great spring," said Craft, who noted Vickers' big year in 2010 when he rushed for 1,534 yards and 16 TDs as a sophomore. "He's an all-around back. He has the size and speed that everyone at the next level is looking for. He's an asset with pass protection and can catch the ball out of the backfield."

Moore is also back at quarterback. He and fellow senior Joey Giaritelli combined to throw for over 240 yards in a 42-35 win over Perry Taylor County in the spring game.

"Both played a lot last year," said Craft. "Going into the season, I am not ruling out the possibility of them both playing. They both do a lot of good things."

Defensively, Williams is one of the top returning players. Lincoln transfer Korey Charles (sophomore) will start in the secondary and play some offense. Plus, defensive lineman R.J. Harris has been a three-year starter since he was a freshman. He will control the line of scrimmage.

The Eagles have depth at linebacker, and they return two seniors in the secondary.

Craft is very optimistic about this year's team - which could make another run at the 2A title.

"The numbers are as good as they have been since I have been there," he said. "I feel like we have a great core of guys coming in mixed in with some younger guys who will step in. We played a lot of sophomores last year - which will help us this year."



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