It has only been a few months since he has been back into high school coaching, but Mike Castellano says his expectations at Middle Creek are being completely met.
He was talking in terms of support from the community and administration, something he experienced about 10 years ago while an assistant at Millbrook before leaving for Coastal Carolina.
Castellano’s team is living up to the scouting report, too.
The Mustangs tied for the Tri-Nine 4A title last season, beating rival Fuquay-Varina. They return seven starters on a big-play offense that averaged 30.4 points last season but have holes to fill on defense.
Many Middle Creek assistants stayed at the school when former coach Sean Crocker moved to nearby Panther Creek. The coaching veterans have helped Castellano’s transition to a program that is 31-8 over the past three seasons.
“It hasn’t been hard to sum up what we’re trying to do,” Castellano said.
The offense starts with senior quarterback David Salmon, who threw for 2,906 yards and 31 touchdowns and ran for six scores.
“He’s been a great leader for us. He’s one of those guys who gives you everything he’s got,” Castellano said. “He’s a very, very good football player, and his leadership is a big part of that.”
Although known for its spread passing attack, the Mustangs were able to gash teams for big runs out of the same shotgun formation as senior running backs Naylaan Lopez and Devonne Johnson combined for 18 touchdowns and more than 1,500 yards rushing.
Receivers Quinton Ray (439 yards, two touchdowns) and Curtis Burston (460 yards, five touchdowns) are the team’s returning starters at the position, and Gabe Cooper, Demetrius Wilkins and Jeff Sladek are vying for the other two spots.
Three starters return to a massive offensive line.
“It’s been kind of fun watching those guys,” Castellano said of his offense. “They have a lot of continuity and a lot of faith in each other that’s been established with their time on the field.”
Experience isn’t readily available on defense, but the talent is there.
“We don’t care what grade they’re in; we care about what they can bring to the table for us,” Castellano said.
The defensive line isn’t as large as last year when it had two college-bound players, but the linebackers should be strong as Tom Hartshorn, Marquise Ward, Josh Hunter and Corey Wright battle for snaps.
DaJuan Young and Matt Verderosa are in the mix in the secondary.
“It fluctuates by day on which (defensive unit) has a good day,” Castellano said. “They’re all working hard, so right now you could pull a name out of a hat and put them somewhere on the depth chart.”
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps