Raleigh Word of God averaged 57.7 points and rushed for 4,413 yards in 2011 as it sped to its second consecutive 12-0 season and the state eight-man football championship.
The Rams graduated Qwentarreus Yarborough, who averaged 200 rushing yards, and four-year quarterback Demetri Washington, but are expected to be just as dominant this season.
Word of God returns six of eight offensive starters and six of eight defensive starters. Despite Yarboroughs departure, running back is expected to be one of the Rams strengths.
Harrison Smith rushed for 399 yards in 2011 and Jonathan Jackson looks good in the backfield, but the primary ball carrier this year might be Casty St. Louis, a senior transfer from Wake Forest-Rolesville.
St. Louis rushed for 593 yards in a balanced Wake Forest attack and caught Washingtons eye in workouts with a sub-4.5 clocking over 40 yards.
Speed is a beautiful thing, Washington said.
Junior Jason Fields was groomed at quarterback last season and led the team with 590 passing yards and 14 passing touchdowns.
The offensive and defensive lines, led by Joshua Fields and Robert Givens, return essentially intact.
Cary Christian, 5-5 in 2011, had only one senior last season and returns 18 lettermen, including 11 seniors.
Quarterback James Peterson and tackle Andrew Waters are three-year starters. Will Gomperts was the leading rusher and leads the defense from linebacker. Jon Henderson is back at running back and defensive end Ben Hoover is expected to be a leader.
St. Davids was 3-7 last year and lost to in-county rivals Cary Christian 34-31 and Word of God 62-13.
Big East Independent
Ravenscroft, Wake Christian and North Raleigh Christian play in the diverse Big East Independent Football Conference. Ravenscroft is eligible for the N.C. Independent Athletic Association Division I playoffs; Wake Christian, North Raleigh and Harrells Christian are eligible for the NCISAA Division II; and Fayetteville Village Christian and Fayetteville Christian are eligible for NCISAA Division III.
The teams play for the conference championship, but all playoff berths are chosen by a selection committee. Nonconference games are as important, sometimes more important, than the league games.
Wake Christian coach Randy Johnson said Ravenscroft is the favorite, as usual, but he was impressed with Harrells Christian and especially running back Russell Washington in an early season scrimmage.
Harrells is coached this season by Brian Aldridge, a Sanderson High graduate who built a 26-year football coaching record of 233-83-1 at East Duplin before retiring.
Wake Christian has 10 veterans on its 26-player team. Seniors Jonny Kikerpill, Zach Surrett, Tim Bunn and Jon Credendino are joined by returning quarterback Beau Barger.
We are incredibly young, Johnson said.
Ravenscroft is young, too. Veteran coach Ned Gonet expects good things from seniors Quinton Taylor at running back and linebacker and from three-year line starter Shakim McKeithan. Juniors Avery Edwards, a 6-foot-6 receiver; Michael Fagan, a 300-pound lineman; and quarterback Jamie Herakovich also will need to be leaders.
So far, Ive been very pleased with our effort and attitude, Gonet said. We have to develop depth and avoid injuries.
Coach Rich Landis expects North Raleigh to improve on a 6-5 campaign. The Knights return 14 seniors, including quarterback John Cook, who passed for almost 4,000 yards in 2011.