KNIGHTDALE — Head football coach Rob Senseney is hoping to replace the bitter taste of a 2011 season-ending loss to Clayton with something a little more sweet.
The third-year coach believes this years Knightdale High School team has the ingredients to make that happen.
The kids have invested in the program and know what to expect, Senseney said. And we have a sound group of seniors that have been here with me since sophomore year. Thats huge. Everywhere Ive (coached), that group has been the real productive group.
With these seniors, now, Ill say one thing and they know when I mean something else. They speak Sensenese.
Senseney singled out Greater Neuse River 4A All-Conference returner Tyler Thomas. Thomas (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and a larger, deeper offensive line than the team had in the last two seasons.
The big thing was our O-line took a maturation step, Senseney said of progress in the offseason. We ran a zone in my first year, but we went to the Wing-T last year and I felt our kids overall had never experienced being in a true offensive system.
I felt if we put them in a system that teaches them the fundamentals a zone assumes you have, theyd come out better for it. Now were back to a zone and it makes sense to the kids.
Senseney also expects quality production from his defensive line and tailbacks the latter unit led by junior brothers Marcell and Marquavious Johnson. Both have competed at the varsity level since their freshman year, and both are multi-sport athletes.
Marcell will also play linebacker and possibly quarterback for the Knights, while Marquavious will add roles as wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
Hes pretty well rounded, Senseney said of Marquavious Johnson, a member of Knightdales 4A state champion track and field team. Hes a kid where you definitely want to get him the ball in space.
The coach expects a lot from two other juniors.
Chris Malone will battle with Johnson for the quarterback position, and is also being considered as a running back and strong safety. Lamont Chaney, a Southeast Raleigh transfer, will play wide receiver and defensive back.
Hes really going to give us a chance to be balanced because when people are double teaming Marquavious, hell be a good option to turn to, Senseney said of Chaney.
Knightdales chance at a second-ever playoff appearance was denied last season when Clayton held on to win its regular season finale, 19-17. Senseney admitted that loss still bothers him, but said his returning players seem to have moved on.
This group has a chip on its shoulder, he said. I like the attitude and I like the swagger.
The main area of improvement the coach is focusing on this season involves momentum early in games.
Last year against Millbrook and Wakefield, we were in those games, but had to claw back, he said. We need to get off to a better start in our games.
Prior to taking over the reins at Knightdale in 2010, Senseney held a career record of 79-19 at three different schools. Among those was Gretna (Va.) High School a team he led to Virginia State 2A Championships in 2003 and 2004.
His Knightdale teams havent had such success, posting a combined seven wins over his first two seasons. That marked a step up, however, from the 2009 season, when Knightdale finished 1-10.
The Knights kick off the 2012 season with a home game against Millbrook on Friday, Aug. 24.