BUNN — Bunn is expecting great things from its football team.
In this case, the term Bunn applies to the team, the school and the community.
High school football is important in this Franklin County town where the Wildcats have a 126-41 record since 1999 and 10 or more wins in six of the last nine years.
Many practices well have 20 or 30 people from the community standing on the hill watching, said Bunn coach Chris Miller, a former Wildcats player. People bring their sons and those boys grow up wanting to play for us.
Years ago when the Bunn field was declared unsafe, the community responded by volunteering to make the needed changes, including relocating light poles.
The football program showed its appreciation by setting a high standard.
(Former coach) David Howle built a program with huge expectations, Miller said. The kids know how to work hard and be dedicated. That is expected. I can ask a guy if he wants to work hard enough to be successful and tell him that if he doesnt want to work that hard that he is in the wrong place.
Bunn lost two of its first three games last year, but finished 9-4. The Wildcats lost to Franklinton 19-14 in a Northern Carolina 2A game and were eliminated in the third round of the playoffs by Kinston, 47-46 in overtime.
The Wildcats came close to converting a game-winning two-point conversion against Kinston and Miller reminds the veterans that they cant change the past, but that they can influence the future.
One more rep in the weight room. One more sprint. One more great effort in practice. Perhaps that would have made a difference, Miller said.
Bunn has eight returning starters on offense and either eight or nine back on defense so expectations are high. College recruiters seem to think the Wildcats have a lot of potential, too.
Wide receiver Jonathan Alston (6-3, 195) has more than a dozen Division I football scholarship offers. Running back Tarik Cohen (5-7, 162) is one of the areas best big-play runners and runs 40 yards in 4.36 seconds. Karilee McLean also can deliver quick strikes.
One of the few untested players in the Wildcats spread offense is quarterback Dillon Autrey. He backed up the graduated Montrel Cooke, who passed for 1,200 yards and ran for 500 yards in 2011.
Dillon is not the same kind of kid and thats good and bad, Miller said. Dillon is a great leader and does some things better. We have to adjust the offense some to fit his strengths.
The defense is led by versatile JWan Lewis, who plays a hybrid position similar to a safety.
Bunn got off to a slow start last year, losing to Rocky Mount in the opener, beating Wilson Fike, and losing to Southern Nash. The Wildcats face the same three 3A clubs to open the 2012 season.
We probably could find some easier people to play, but we want tough, competitive games, Miller said.
Once the league season starts, the Wildcats are likely to be heavy favorites in all its games except for Franklinton and Roanoke Rapids.