After Chris Rusiewicz was named head football coach at Northwest Guilford High in Greensboro, NC, last January, he naturally began watching game film from the 2022 season to evaluate the Vikings’ returning personnel.
One particular highlight confirmed the former college head coach had made the right decision to pursue the Northwest Guilford job.
The game in early October was the annual battle against Northwest’s rival, Northern Guilford, and featured a five-catch, 200-yard, two-touchdown performance by junior receiver Trenton Cloud. Rusiewicz was already familiar with Cloud, having been on the opposite sideline a year before while serving as defensive coordinator for Northern Guilford.
“Just watching him get past those guys (Northern defensive backs), when he got even with them, to separate,” Rusiewicz said of Cloud’s effort that day. “Of course, not every one of the throws was perfect, but he still made the catch. That was just another reason when this job opened up it was a no brainer to go for it.”
Rusiewicz will have the privilege of working with Cloud next fall before shipping him off to join the East Carolina Pirates sometime in 2024. Cloud, a 6-foot-1, 170-pounder, became the first member of ECU’s football recruiting Class of 2024 on March 13 by giving the Pirates a verbal commitment.
Cloud chose the Pirates over offers from Appalachian State, Boston College, Charlotte, Duke, Eastern Michigan, James Madison, Louisville, Michigan State, Minnesota, Rutgers, South Alabama, Wake Forest and West Virginia. He also attended a Junior Day event at Virginia in January. But it was multiple visits to ECU’s campus, including a game-day experience at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in October against Central Florida, that convinced him to become a Pirate.
“The coaches there saw the potential in me,” said Cloud, who received a scholarship offer from ECU last September. And when I went there for the UCF game, I just really liked the campus. They just impressed me the most and I knew I wanted to go there.”
Cloud will be the third member of his family to play college football. His father Haywood was a running back at Winston-Salem State where he was a member of the 1987 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship team. Older brother Cameron will be a senior receiver at Richmond next fall, but before joining the Spiders was a four-year starter who produced 2,916 all-purpose yards in his final two seasons at Northwest Guilford.
Trenton naturally followed in his father and brother’s footsteps by starting his football career at age six.
“I was pretty good by the time I reached middle school,” Trenton Cloud said. “I just kept working from there.”
Cloud joined the Northwest Guilford varsity as a freshman, making seven catches for 280 yards and three touchdowns while appearing in seven games. He greatly increased his production as a sophomore with 60 receptions for 715 yards and nine touchdowns over 11 games. The performance earned Cloud All-Metro 4-A Conference honors.
But it was in a junior campaign highlighted by the big outing against Northern Guilford that Cloud started to hear from college recruiters. Four times during the season Cloud produced 112 yards or more receiving on the way to 71 catches for 1,003 yards and 13 touchdowns (13 games).
With his college decision already determined, Cloud is now turning his attention to his senior campaign and preparing himself to make the transition to major college football.
“I told him, ‘Look, you are going to dominate as a senior. But let’s prepare for you to go in and play as a freshman at ECU,”’ Rusiewicz said. “Let’s start with the weight room, let’s start with practice, let’s get you better route running. Let’s get you prepared to go in and play as a freshman because I’ve been there before. We don’t want you in a situation where you have to sit and wait. Let’s start developing you now.”
One major objective for Cloud is to improve his speed, which is already impressive. He is actually tied for fourth on Northwest Guilford’s career list for the 100-meter dash (11.24) and is 10th in the 200 (23.84).
“I think his skill set right now, he’s a possession receiver with range, is how I’d put it,” Rusiewicz said. “He’s going to stretch the field. What we’re working on now is that explosiveness when he catches something underneath.
“He can put his foot in the ground, and he knows how to make people miss. He’s smooth. But there’s still some explosion we want to get him to do. Last year his receptions came out to about five a game. I thought, ‘Why is this guy not touching the ball 10 times a game?’ But to do that we have to get him to be a more explosive underneath receiver.”
Cloud will have the advantage of playing again next fall with one of the state’s top quarterbacks in senior Tanner Ballou. Ballou will enter the 2023 season with 4,809 career passing yards and 59 touchdowns. Cloud will also play opposite another talented pass catcher in junior Prince Brown, who had 32 receptions for 550 yards and seven touchdowns last season.