Based out of Hendersonville, North Carolina, The Hendersonville Speed are the first ever team of its kind in the area.
The organization has gone through some changes — mainly in name and in ownership — but that doesn’t make the Speed any less synonymous with Hendersonville. Founded in 2014, the team was first known as the Hendersonville Jaguars and then they took on a broader role to become the Western Carolina Speed. Heading into the 2017 season, the team has decided to go back to its roots and is now once again named after the city it represents.
It’s a city that will be looking for the team to bounce back from a 2016 campaign that saw the Speed go 0-9 in WCFL (World Class Football League) play.
Now in the UIFL (United Independent Football League), head coach Danny Taylor is hoping his squad will be able to turn things around. And for what it’s worth, despite the winless season in the last campaign, he feels his squad has what it takes. They fought through every loss last season despite some big injuries, and they gave everybody their best shot.
“In the first game we lost our starting quarterback, starting running back and one of our best wide receivers,” he told Developmental Football USA. “The defense was solid but they couldn’t do it all themselves. We got a lot of respect from other teams even though we lost every game. Most teams would have quit or shut the team down, but we finished the season.”
Heading into this upcoming season, which starts on February 11th, Taylor feels his team has never been as solid. He praised the Speed’s depth and he’s confident the team is prepared.
“This is the most solid this organization has ever been,” he said.
Taylor seems particularly excited about his offense heading into the 2017 season. His quarterback, Jamison Hill, is from the Army and played on one of Army’s national teams. He didn’t play for the West Point club that just beat Navy this past season, but he does have some good experience, and he’s obviously an athlete.
Hill is a former wide receiver now turned quarterback. He’s a player Taylor classified as “motivated”. His partner in crime is former East Tennessee State player Kameron Cheatem, who plays center and has a great relationship with his quarterback because they played high school ball together.
“They’ve been friends since high school and they trust each other,” Taylor explained. Speaking of trust, Hill relayed that the team trust its quarterback and he’s expected to play a big role for the organization both now and in the future.
“J-Hill has the potential to help lead this team to their first championship,” Taylor said. “He’s definitely turned this team around with [his] dedication and leadership.”Out wide for Hill is wide receiver Ralph Williams III. Williams is returning to the Speed this season and his head coach had nothing but good things to say about him.
“He’s definitely one of the sure-handed, bruising wide receivers — very hard guy to bring down,” Taylor explained. “He’s from Baltimore. He played some minor league ball in Baltimore and he’s one of our captains as well.”
Veteran slot back Fred Lindsey, rookie tight end Christian Durrah and rookie tailback Jordan Trull all have very big roles in the Speed offense as well. Durrah is a sure-handed tight end expected to rack up stats in the passing game, Trull is a speedy, elusive athlete with the potential to take every hand-off to the end zone and Lindsey is an unpredictable slot back with incredible speed and can turn busted plays into clips for the highlight reel.
Defensively, defensive tackle Paul Jenkins is expected to play a huge role for the Speed in his second year with the organization. He’s a leader for the team both on and off the field, so much so that Taylor classified him as a “franchise player.” Jenkins already has the franchise record for sacks, and that includes a game that saw him notch an amazing eight sacks in one contest. Jenkins had at least 18 sacks on the season, and he’s part of a defense that is coming back to build on a very strong statistical season, despite the losses.
If you think Taylor is excited about his offense, you should hear what he has to say about his defense. Specifically, he’s excited to see what middle linebacker Jeremy Holmes, outside linebacker Colton Patillo, defensive back Jovan Aiken and Jenkins can do.
“He’s out for blood this season, Taylor said of Holmes. “He definitely wants to wipe away that 0-9 season from last year. He didn’t let that discourage him.”
Patillo isn’t all that big for a linebacker, checking it around 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, but Taylor said he’s fast and is not afraid to hit anything that moves.
“He was a walk-on to our team and projected to be third string and worked his way up to a starting position,” Taylor explained. “He’s the guy we expect to set the tone on defense.”
Aiken and Jenkins round out what Taylor expects to be a well-oiled machine this season.Hendersonville will be relying on its attitude and physicality to lead the way on defense. Ironically, the Speed is expecting to flash a little bit of speed on the field as well.
At the end of the day for Hendersonville, though, it comes down to trust. Taylor tells DFUSA that the team is very family-oriented and they try to all remain good friends off the field.
“We’re trying to bring a championship to our city and give athletes, who may not have had the chance to play at the college level, an open door…an opportunity and it’s up to them to take it,” he said. “We’re trying to bring more competition, more excitement to the city of Hendersonville.”
“The first season was rough, but it was a wake-up call.”
The Armageddon Bowl
Hendersonville obviously wants to have a successful season, but there’s one game that may mean more than most, and that’s when they take on the Blue Ridge Raiders on February 25th in a game they’re calling “The Armageddon Bowl”.
There’s a personal history between the two organizations and there’s no love lost both on the field and off of it. A past Hendersonville roster was apparently fleeced by the Blue Ridge origination, according to Taylor, and that has led to what could be one of the most intense rivalries in the region.
“Everyone is wondering who has the better team — we’ll find out in week three,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be absolute war and destruction on the field that day and only one team is going to win. I doubt it’ll be a blowout either way.”