E.E. Smith linebacker Markell Samuel on July 25, 2019. [Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer]

Leading the charge

Markel Samuel carries on tradition of strong linebacker play at E.E. Smith

Discussions about great linebacker play at E.E. Smith, or in Cumberland County, always include Aaron Curry.

Curry set the standard for area linebackers during a playing career that included winning Two Rivers 4-A Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior at Smith, receiving the Butkus Award given to the nation’s top linebacker as a senior at Wake Forest, and being selected fourth overall in the 2009 NFL draft.

Markel Samuel may be as close to a linebacker with similar potential that’s come through the E.E. Smith program since Curry graduated in 2004.

At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Samuel has a similar frame to Curry, has been timed at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash — Curry ran a 4.56 at the NFL combine — and is a force rushing the passer coming off the edge.

Unlike, Curry, whose major-college options were limited to East Carolina and Wake Forest, Samuel received scholarship offers from Appalachian State, Charlotte, Cincinnati and Virginia. He gave a verbal commitment to the Mountaineers on Aug. 1.

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E.E. Smith holds practice for the upcoming football season on Aug. 2, 2019. [Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer]

About the Golden Bulls ...


E.E. Smith holds practice for the upcoming football season on Aug. 2, 2019. [Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer]


Top returning players: Randy Franklin, DB-RB, Sr.; Anthony Glenn, OL, Sr.; Anthony Morris, OL, Jr.; Darius Johnson, OL, Sr.; Markel Samuel, LB, Sr.; Brenden Tibbs, LB, Sr.; Trevon Hinton, DB, Sr.; Carlos Callendar, DL, Sr.; John Humphrey, DL, Sr.; Jarvis Dudley, LB, Sr.; Chris Miller, LB, Jr.; Jeremy Evans, WR, Sr.; Shawn Kirk, RB, Sr.; Jordan Woodard, WR-QB, Sr.

Coach's outlook: “I think that we have the pieces this year to compete for a conference championship. That is our focus. Two years ago, we played for the conference championship. I remind these guys we are not far removed from that. We want to re-write last year’s wrong and get back to where we know we should be.’’

910preps.com evaluation: The Golden Bulls took a mighty fall last season, but the silver lining is they’re now an experienced team, especially on defense where they boast two of the county’s top players in Markel Samuel and Randy Franklin. They key for E.E. Smith will be offense, where it will need breakthrough performances at several skill positions to right the ship.

Conference: Patriot (3-A)

Coach: Deron Donald

2018 record: 0-11, 0-8

5-year-record: 27-32, 14-20


All games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted otherwise

Aug. 23 — at Lee County, 7 p.m.

Aug. 30 — at Hoke County, 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 — Seventy-First

Sept. 13 — Terry Sanford*

Sept. 20 — at Overhills*

Sept. 27 — Gray's Creek*

Oct. 4 — at Douglas Byrd*

Oct. 11 — Westover*

Oct. 18 — at South View*

Oct. 25 — Pine Forest*

Nov. 1 — Open

Nov. 8 — at Cape Fear*

*Conference game



Senior Randy Franklin, who has scholarship offers from Army and Navy, will again be a big-time defender in the secondary for the Golden Bulls. But Donald plans to us utilize the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder’s 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash on offense this season at running back. “Anytime he has the ball in his hands, he can take it the distance,’’ Donald said.


Senior Shawn Kirk isn’t the biggest (5-6, 140) or fastest in E.E. Smith’s running back corps, but he’s been one of the program’s most dedicated players. “He’s one of those guys who breathes E.E. Smith football,’’ Donald said. “He’s never missed a practice. Shawn will get an opportunity at running back this year and we know he’ll do whatever we ask him to do.’’


Perhaps the most important newcomer to E.E. Smith’s varsity roster is sophomore Dashawn McCullough, who’ll take over at quarterback after directing the junior varsity to a 3-3 record last season. McCullough is pocket passer, but can run when necessary. A potential receiving target for McCullough could be 6-5 Jaylen Siermons, a Smith basketball player out for football for the first time. Brothers Daniel (RB-WR) and Jeremiah Dawson (LB) are poised to make an impact with the Golden Bulls after transferring in from South View. JV grad Tyree Johnson also projects as a secondary starter.


The Golden Bulls face a gauntlet of challenges in the first weeks of the regular season. They kick off the season against a Lee County team featuring three major-college prospects on defense, including the state’s No. 1-ranked player, Desmond Evans. September begins with home games against in-county rivals Seventy-First and Terry Sanford, the latter of which starts Patriot Conference play. The outcome of those games will tell a lot about the direction of E.E. Smith’s season.

E.E. Smith linebacker Markell Samuel on July 24, 2019. [Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer]
E.E. Smith holds practice for the upcoming football season on Aug. 2, 2019. [Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer]


Aug. 17 — L, St. Pauls, 28-21

Aug. 24 — L, at Durham Jordan, 53-34

Aug. 31 — L, at Seventy-First, 47-13

Sept. 7 — L, Overhills, 23-7*

Sept. 25 — L, at Gray’s Creek, 23-19*

Sept. 29 — L, Douglas Byrd, 15-13*

Oct. 5 — L, South View, 54-10*

Oct. 12 — L, at Pine Forest, 55-0*

Oct. 26 — L, Cape Fear, 42-0*

Nov. 3 — L, at Terry Sanford, 47-0*

Nov. 9 — L, at Westover, 70-20*

*Conference game