Holly Springs set the stage for this season with a high-scoring four-game finish in 2012.
The Hawks beat Apex 35-17, topped Fuquay-Varina 48-34, scored 46 points in a loss to regular-season champ Middle Creek and battled playoff-bound Lee County to the final whistle in a season-ending loss.
The Hawks finished 4-6, but gained respect and created a lot of optimism.
“We were lucky to play them earlier in the season,” said Athens Drive coach Chris Martin, whose club beat the Hawks 27-10. “By the end of the season, Holly Springs had its offense clicking and it was very hard to stop. They have some key people back. If you’re looking for a dark horse, it’s them.”
The Hawks averaged 37.5 points per game in their last four games, which included three battles against playoff teams. The offensive surge was quite a turnaround for a team that had scored 13 points or less in three of its first six games.
“We got comfortable with the system and with the personnel,” Holly Springs coach Will Orbin said. “The next step for us is to develop maturity and the ability to focus on each play.”
Orbin said the Hawks are in the second of three stages of maturity. He thinks the team learned how to compete last year and is working on learning to win. The next step would be winning consistently.
“Against Middle Creek we trailed 46-42, but had some momentum and we had Middle Creek backed up on third down,” Orbin said. “They got the first down and turned the game around. If we get the stop, I think we score and take the lead.
“To make those kinds of plays, we have to become a mature football team that can really focus.”
Many of the key offensive players return.
Junior running back Nehemiah Harris (808 rushing yards), senior runner Kelvin Wilson (715 yards) and H-back Joey Gizzi are back. Up front, Wake Forest center recruit Nick Luedeke and guard Anthony Gomez make up the nucleus. Conner Frederiksen (6-foot-3, 245) has been solid in preseason workouts.
Orbin feels good about his defensive line and linebackers. Nic Johnson (6-foot-1, 290 pounds) and end Quincy Weaver (6-foot-2, 230) are veterans.
“During a game, some good things and some bad things are going to happen,” Orbin said. “Mature teams handle that.”
Several Southwest Wake Conference coaches believe the Hawks could contend this season.
“A lot of people might be surprised if Holly Springs is really good, but not me,” Fuquay-Varina coach Jeb Hall said.
“Will Orbin is doing a great job over there. I think Holly Springs is going to be very good.”