There are plenty of high school football programs that would be worried about returning just five starters.
And there is a bit of concern as Fuquay-Varina approaches this season, but there’s also a confidence that comes from a program with a solid level of expectations placed upon each player as they come into the system.
The Bengals have won at least 10 games in each of the past six seasons, have clinched at least a share of the conference title in six of the past seven seasons and are 43-9 under fifth-year coach Ryan Habich.
Fuquay-Varina’s consistency is in part due to its continuity. Most of its coaching staff has remained intact for eight years. The Bengals are a Wake County power, and might have been a few plays away from being considered even more – having lost just two conference games the past two years, both by one point in double-overtime, only to meet that same team in the postseason and lose again.
So how will Fuquay-Varina fill the void left by 32 seniors? By moving some players around and grooming others to step in.
“We’re going to adapt and find a way to be successful. We’ve kind of taught the ‘Fuquay way’ and we do things a certain way,” Habich said. “We believe that the way we do things and the way kids buy into our program with the team concept and how we do things, it gives us a chance to be successful.”
Senior Garrett Suggs, who has 13 interceptions over the past two years, also will start at receiver.
“He’s going to get an opportunity to get his hands on the ball a lot more than just defense,” Habich said. “Some of our players will play two positions.”
The backfield always is an important part of the Bengals’ attack.
Kyle Smith (four receiving, four rushing touchdowns) and Ocean Stroud return as running backs, but Quincy Mangum transfers in from Apex and could start right away. Demetrius Rudolph and Ty Hinton figure to compete for snaps at B-back. The B-back has been integral the past four years, as those who have started there have averaged 1,800 rushing yards, but Fuquay-Varina expects to be less smash-mouth this year with its smallest offensive line since 2007.
“We only gave out about two pairs of XXL shoulder pads, so we’re not very big, but we’re going to adapt a little bit and find out what we do well. We might spread out certain times a little bit more,” Habich said.
He is intrigued by the likely impact of junior quarterback Tyler Williams, who the coach said has a strong arm and runs a 4.3-second 40-yard dash.
“He could be one of the most exciting players at quarterback in the area,” Habich said. “He’s got the potential to be a really special player.”
Three-year starting tight end Jon MacBride (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) serves as almost a sixth offensive lineman with his size and blocking ability.
Smith and Suggs will play in the secondary, but aside from that there are few certainties on defense. Junior Trevor Phillips likely will get the nod at nose guard.
“We’ve kind of adapted our defense to be more of a moving defense to make up for a lack of size and experience,” Habich said. “But we might be a little more athletic now at linebacker.”
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps