The Orange and Blue: NC Football prepares for a momentous season


Peyton Stack

As football season eclipses the horizon like a late afternoon game in Emory Sewell Stadium, the NC Warriors set out for great heights and deep runs. The Warriors return several varsity starters from last year, while also adding multiple high-level transfers from around the state of Georgia. Led by head coach Shane Queen and junior quarterback Malachi Singleton, the 3-7A region champs set a tough regular season schedule in order to prepare for the state playoffs. Between a dominant receiving core and a stellar defense, the sky remains the limit for any success that the Warriors can achieve. “I’ve always told our kids we want to be a program that the first 10 are considered practice games, and they get you lined up for where you go in the playoffs, and we hosted the first two games in the playoffs and we got a great draw,” Queen said.

Peyton Stack, Co-Copy Editor

The NC Warrior varsity football team enters their seventy-first year as a football program, boasting the most extraordinary talent in recent years. Compiling a 39-18 record over the past 5 seasons, the Warriors ended the 2020 season with a 10-2 record and a second-round exit in the GHSA (Georgia High School Association) 7A state playoffs. This early exit ignited a fire in the reigning 3-7A Region champs, causing plenty of work in the weight room and hours of film studying in the team room. NC, led by head coach Shane Queen, welcomes back a solid group of returners from the class of 2022 and 2023, along with adding numerous highly touted players through the transfer portal. These newly acquired pieces along with last year’s squad earned the Warriors an eighty-fifth national ranking on MaxPreps and several top three rankings for state 7A. 

“Our kids have been very hungry this offseason. They’ve worked really hard and they’ve done a good job, not only on the football field and in the weight room, but in the classroom. We’ve had seven straight years of over a 3.0 GPA. I think our culture is very strong right now,” NC head coach Shane Queen said

NC junior quarterback Malachi Singleton returns under center for the Warriors and boasts a newly procured 4-star rating on 24/7 Sports. Singleton, who threw for 1619 yards and 15 touchdowns in his sophomore year, earned several Division 1 scholarship offers from esteemed programs including the University of Georgia and the University of Central Florida. After losing wide receiver and main target Christain Moss to graduation, Singleton relies on the loaded Warrior receiving core to help move the offense. Senior wide receiver and UGA commit De’Nylon Morissette joins the Warriors as one of the teams’ lead targets. Morisette, who transferred from Brookwood high school, boasts a 4-star rating on 24/7 Sports and reeled in over 800 receiving yards in the 2020 season. Morissette pairs with senior wide receiver Sam Mbake, who also transferred from Brookwood but previously attended NC. Similar to the 6’2 200-pound UGA commit, Mbake also earned a 4-star rating on 24/7 sports, while racking up over 25 D1 scholarship offers. In addition, NC’s receiving core features senior slot receiver Reggie Givhan and outside junior wide receiver DJ Tyler. Givhan, who transferred from Hillgrove High School, and Tyler both anticipate a successful season as they remain Singleton’s top options to hit down the seam. Along with these starting four receivers, come younger players such as sophomore wide receiver David Eziomume and junior wide receiver Caleb Jenkins. The Warriors could also see multiple defensive players playing both sides of the ball. 

“This fall, I hope to make some great plays, show love for my teammates whenever they make great plays, and just play a large leadership role for my teammates when they need us,” Tyler said. 

After losing defensive specialists Jadyn Walker and Montrel Jenkins to graduation, NC looks to fill these important roles. Defensively, the Warriors welcome back senior linebacker Joshua Josephs, who boasts a 3-star rating on 24/7 Sports along with over 25 D1 scholarship offers. Joining Josephs upfront stands senior defensive lineman Latrell Bullard who measures in at 6’2 315 pounds. Bullard transferred over from McEachern high school and turned heads with his play in last week’s scrimmage against Sprayberry. Senior middle linebacker Zach White also looks promising for the Warriors. As the men in orange and blue transition to the backfield, they find senior cornerback Marquis Groves-Killebrew along with senior cornerback Andre Stewart. Groves-Killebrew, who holds a 4-star rating and committed to UGA, and Stewart, who holds a 3-star rating and committed to Kentucky, both transferred from Brookwood high school. These two athletes could possibly see time at wide receiver, along with junior cornerback Quentin Ajiero. Givhan also plans to pick up duties in NC’s backfield, as they prepare for a long, physical season. 

“The most important thing is they have to join our culture. That’s anytime you have an outside kid come in and move in, and they have done a great job of that. They’ve jumped in, and some have become leaders on our team in a short time period,” Queen said

Looking at the Warriors’ offensive line, multiple faces return to protect Singleton’s blindside. Junior center Blake Ellsworth, junior right tackle Robert Grigsby, and junior right guard Marselle Felton all come back from last year’s 10-2 team. Joining them includes senior left guard Joshua Bagley and senior left tackle Aiden Williams. Collectively, this year’s “O-line” weighs in at 1400 pounds and plans to use this force to create holes for Singleton and other rushers out of the backfield. Offensive line coach and strength coordinator Robert Ingram continues to impress with his “iron wall” level block. 

“He’ll step up and he can move around the pocket really easily. Especially in the running game, it’s one less guy to block because he does it with his legs. Ben Hall is going to make it a lot easier for us this year too,” Ellsworth said

Joining Singleton in the backfield stands junior running back Ben Hall, who took over the starting job after splitting time last season. Hall, a more sturdy type back, compliments Singleton’s playstyle and can earn short yardage in pressure situations. 

Special teams-wise, the Warriors hope to play strategically and smartly to put both sides of the ball in the best positions possible. This facet of the game stood as the Warriors’ Achilles heel in their playoff loss to Lowndes last season but could play significant importance this season. Kicker Javier Morales takes over for former NC standout Ben Moran, as sophomore backup quarterback TJ Smith holds. Givhan, along with several other Warrior players, will handle punts and kickoffs over the course of this season. 

“Defensively our biggest improvement compared to last season is understanding of the new defense that coach Hengold has been teaching us. The strongest aspect of our team from preseason play is between the receiving core and the linebackers,” senior linebacker Vernard Martin said. 

When considering the Warrior’s regular-season schedule, Queen purposely designed a rigorous roadmap. The Warriors face the defending 6A state champion Buford Wolves in week 1, and the top ranked 7A Milton Eagles in week 2. Following that, the Warriors see the North Gwinnett Bulldogs in week 6 and then venture into a tough region schedule. Though select individuals could view this as a “high risk, high reward” tactic, the entire program believes this path will ultimately put them in a prominent position. 

“It kind of sets the standard, especially going into the playoffs, that’s what we’re going to see. If we’re going to get the Bufords and the Miltons out of the way and see those guys, then we’re not shell shocked when we get to the playoffs,” Ellsworth said

The NC Warriors not only gained new additions to their football team but also their program and amenities as a whole. Much of this year’s coaching staff remains similar to previous years but adds a couple of fresh faces. The locally loved “Warrior Radio Network”, and host Brian Giffin, return for their sophomore year and adds newcomers to their staff. The Warriors hired photographer “Saucy Marr” to take over media responsibilities, and plan to keep an interactive social media presence for fan purposes. The program overall continues to “run on” Player Development coach Dallas White, and Booster club president Jason Ellsworth.

As time ticks away until opening kickoff in this year’s Corky Kell Classic, the Warriors keep their focus centered on one common goal: a state title. Fans, students, and the entire community watch on as greatness assembles in front of them and creates unforgettable memories. 

“I’m really excited this year, because of the amount of talent we have on the roster. They have a real shot at taking it pretty far. The paint squad and I are going to do our best to pack out every game and make sure they get the support they deserve,” senior paint squad leader Logan Bare said.

Make sure to catch the Warriors as they take on the Buford Wolves on Friday, August 20 at Emory Sewell stadium in the Corky Kell Classic (8:30 kickoff time). Between both teams, they share more of the state’s top 100 seniors than any other high school game in Georgia. Purchase tickets via, and those unable to attend can tune into the Warrior Radio Network.