Fuquay-Varina Highs string of 10-win football seasons ended last year when the club finished 7-5, its eighth consecutive winning season.
The Bengals defense wasnt up to previous standards. Fuquay lost to West Johnston in the season-opener 42-35, lost to Middle Creek 52-21, fell to Lee County 37-14, lost to Holly Springs 48-34 and was eliminated from the playoffs by Richmond County 34-13.
Fuquay gave up an average of 42.6 points in its losses.
Jeb Hall, who succeeded Ryan Habich as the Fuquay coach, is a former Western Carolina defensive lineman. His father was a high school coach in Georgia. He understands offenses are more explosive than in the past, but he also knows the Bengals defense must be more effective this season if the team is to improve.
My father ran the Wishbone in high school and if you couldnt stop the fullback, hed run the fullback every time until you did stop it. Hall said. Football was about getting three and four yards a crack.
Now, youre trying to create space to give kids chances to make big plays. Football is always changing.
Fuquay football has changed since the days of Graham Myricks hard-nosed bunch in the 1970s that was a perennial 2A power, but the things Myrick taught still are the backbone of the Bengals program.
We want to play great defense, take care of the ball, run behind a very good offensive line and be solid on special teams, said Hall, who came to Fuquay 10 years ago as a member of former Coach Dave Riggs staff.
The Bengals have some strengths. Quarterback Tyler Williams rushed for 1,200 yards and passed for almost 1,000. Junior Damarcus Williams added another 1,000 yards rushing.
Tyler did a lot of things for us last year, Hall said. He really made a bunch of big plays and was able to do a bunch of things of us.
Mark Youmans and Roelvis Bone-Vargas are expected to stabilize the offensive line.
They are in the 210-pound range and when Hall referred to them in practice one day as hogs, Youmans countered, Were not hogs. Were hornets. Were going to pester them.
Defensively, safeties Daniel Niekens and Tyler MacBride return along with corner Eric Sugarman. Bone-Varga will be in the front four.
We have some kids that we know about, but weve got some others that were still looking at, Hall said.
Were just starting to hit in practice and there are a lot of things you dont know until you start hitting.