Terry Sanford senior tight end Ezemdi Udoh, an N.C. State recruit, on July 24, 2019. [Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer]

Out of the shadows

Terry Sanford football's Ezemdi Udoh primed for breakout season

Terry Sanford hosts Douglas Byrd on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. [Raul F. Rubiera/The Fayetteville Observer]

There's no hiding Ezemdi Udoh.

As a 6-foot-5, 230-pound tight end, the Terry Sanford senior is easy to spot on a football field.

Although he's been a varsity starter for the Bulldogs since his sophomore season, Udoh's production rarely showed up in the box score.

The N.C. State recruit expects that to change this season, yearning for "the opportunity to show y'all what I have."

“I’ve been in the shadows for awhile now," said Udoh, who made just four catches for 30 yards last season on a Terry Sanford team that was loaded with offensive weapons.

"I think it’s my time to step up.”

Out of the shadows and into the spotlight, Udoh received high praise from Bulldogs coach Bruce McClelland, who expects Udoh to be the team's breakout player this season.

With three of the top four receivers no longer on the roster, and Jacob Knight moving to quarterback, Udoh will have the opportunity to show what he can do in a bigger role.

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About the Bulldogs ...

Conference: Patriot (3-A)

Coach: Bruce McClelland

2018 record: 10-4, 6-2

5-year record: 55-24, 33-7


All games at 7:30 p.m.

All home games played at Reid Ross Classical

Aug. 23 — at Lumberton

Aug. 30 — at Jack Britt

Sept. 6 — Open

Sept. 13 — at E.E. Smith*

Sept. 20 — Cape Fear*

Sept. 27 — at Rolesville

Oct. 4 — at Overhills*

Oct. 11 — Gray's Creek*

Oct. 18 — at Douglas Byrd*

Oct. 25 — Westover*

Nov. 1 — at South View*

Nov. 8 — Pine Forest*

* — Conference game

Top returners: Dorian Clark, RB, Sr.; Jackson Deaver, MLB, Sr.; Elijah Morris, DL, Sr.; Ezemdi Udoh, TE/DE, Sr.; Roscoe Blue, OL, Sr.; Sequan Smith, DB, Jr.

Potential breakout players: Tyquan Hayes, DB, Sr; Maurice Jones, DB. Sr.; Jacob Knight, QB, Sr.; Yates Johnson, WR, Sr.

Coach's outlook: "I’m a firm believer in this is the kids’ football team. ... The standard is conference championship, home playoff games and a state championship. They won’t let it be anything but that. Our standard is the same every year. I think this year, you’re going to see more of a balanced team — offense and defense."

910Preps.com evaluation: The Bulldogs lost several key contributors from last season, including quarterback Davidjohn Herz, big-time playmaker Leonard Mosley and defensive back Dante Bowlding — the Patriot 4-A/3-A Conference Defensive Player of the Year. But the standard remains the same for a Terry Sanford program that is looking for its second conference crown in three years. Senior running back Dorian Clark, who had 10 games with 100 or more rushing yards last season, will take pressure off first-year starter Jacob Knight, as will N.C. State recruit Ezemdi Udoh, who is expected to take on a bigger role this season. With Jackson Deaver and Elijah Morris leading the defense, the Bulldogs should remain in the race for another Patriot trophy — and another playoff run.

Terry Sanford carries 'road-warrior mentality' into season

Heavy equipment rips down a section of the Terry Sanford High School football stadium
on Monday, June 17, 2019. [Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer]

Being the road team comes with its share of disadvantages.

Bruce McClelland is simply urging the Terry Sanford football team to focus on one of the few positives that comes with being away from home.

“One of our goals this year is to embrace the road-warrior mentality,” said McClelland, whose team will play its home football games at Reid Ross Classical High School while its new stadium comes together ahead of the 2020 season.

"Our kids have historically been very resilient. We just put it on the board as another challenge.”

McClelland and his staff will “repeat it until we’re blue in the face" as the Bulldogs chase a conference championship and deep run in the state playoffs.

Built in 1971, the old stadium served as home of the Bulldogs’ football teams for decades before the school decided it was time to renovate.

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Demolition of Terry Sanford grandstand evokes memories

The emotions didn’t hit Bruce McClelland until he drove to Terry Sanford High School on Sunday to watch as the school’s grandstand facility was being demolished.

Built in 1971, the stadium served as home of the Bulldogs’ football teams for decades before the school decided it was time to renovate.

“I immediately went back to my cousin playing in the state championship in the early ’80s, being a little kid and saying ‘I’m going to be on that field one day,’” McClelland said.

“Being on that field for a state championship run when I was a sophomore, just all the times. You would think it would be all about the field and football, and a lot of it was. But a lot of it took you back to your classmates. ... It was really surreal.”

Principal Tom Hatch described the last few days as an “emotional roller-coaster.”

“Having been a student that went to school here, sat in those stands, and watched Friday night football, soccer and cheered the teams on,” Hatch said.

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Running back Dorian Clark hopes to bring his best in his final season with the Bulldogs. As a junior, Clark logged 1,662 rushing yards with 13 touchdowns and had 10 games with 100 or more yards. Expect that production to go up a notch now that Davidjohn Herz and Leonard Mosley are out of the picture. Coach Bruce McClelland said Clark "looks even more explosive than he did last season."

Defensively, McClelland expects Elijah Morris, Jackson Deaver and Sequan Smith to be among the top contributors.


Following in the footsteps of Herz and Christian Jayne will be no easy task for Jacob Knight, who finished with 12 catches for 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a wide receiver last season. But McClelland pointed to Knight and Smith, a two-way player, as the stars of the offseason "because of the 7-on-7 format."

“Jacob’s had a really good camp," McClelland said. "Sequan Smith, on the defensive side, is going to be our Dante (Bowlding). Everything will go through him in the secondary this year. He’s going to play some wideout and slot to give us that threat."


The Bulldogs hope to be a balanced team this season, but there's no secret about the team's strength. It's, well, strength. With 1,000-yard rusher Clark in the backfield and a pair of defenders in Morris and Deaver who racked up more than 100 tackles last season anchoring the defense, Terry Sanford will look to impose its will on opponents this season.

“If we run the football well, we’ve got a chance," McClelland said. "If we play defense through the middle, we’ve got a chance. This is the toughest league … you’ve got to bring it every week. There’s no gimmes in this league. We’ve got to develop these young guys quick.”


There are plenty of players to choose from when thinking about Terry Sanford's football history. Members of the 2019 squad are well aware of that, but two names come to mind as recent examples: Oli Udoh and Dwayne Allen. Udoh, an offensive tackle at Elon, was the 193rd selection by the Minnesota Vikings in this year's NFL draft. Allen, who won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end at Clemson, is now a member of the Miami Dolphins. Allen won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots last season.

"We talk about those stories," McClelland said. "These guys know Dwayne Allen. They know Oli. Their stories are incredible."

Jack Britt plays Terry Sanford at Jack Britt on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. [Raul F. Rubiera/The Fayetteville Observer]


Aug. 17 — L, Fuquay-Varina, 36-30

Aug. 24 — W, at Jack Britt, 29-15

Aug. 31 — W, Cleveland, 42-35

Sept. 7 — L, at Cape Fear, 20-3*

Oct. 1 — W, Overhills, 48-24*

Oct. 5 — W, Douglas Byrd, 26-14*

Oct. 12 — W, at Westover, 34-19*

Oct. 19 — W, South View, 49-41*

Oct. 25 — L, at Pine Forest, 21-14*

Nov. 3 — W, E.E. Smith, 47-0*

Nov. 9 — W, at Gray's Creek, 31-28*

Nov. 16 — W, Northeast Guilford, 35-7**

Nov. 23 — W, Rocky Mount, 30-0**

Nov. 30 — L, at Havelock, 47-33**

* — Conference game

** — NCHSAA playoff game