Mike Thibodeau says he sees one big challenge as the new football coach at Southeast Raleigh.
He wants to bring the Bulldogs’ glory days back.
The Connecticut native came to Wake County a year ago for a teaching job at Knightdale High, where the once sad-sack Knights shocked the world by winning the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference and won two playoff games before a close loss at traditional power Scotland.
Thibodeau was junior varsity and quarterbacks coach at Knightdale under Robert Senseney.
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“It was a great experience at Knightdale,” said Thibodeau, who is in his seventh year of coaching. “I know (Senseney) built the program from scratch, and I talked with him a lot about how he was able to do it.
“What we want to do here is be a tough bunch to play every Friday night, especially at home. About 10 years ago nobody wanted to play Southeast because the defense was that tough. I think the talent is here to get that again. There has been a lot of turnover here over the last few years. We want to establish an identity and let the school build around us.”
Thibodeau said Southeast, which has been in the playoffs nine straight seasons and went 4-7 under Marvin Burke last season against a killer schedule, could be close to being very good.
“One of my goals right away was to get four or five good coaches on each side of the ball and we’ve done that,” Thibodeau said. “That way our kids can get a lot of individual attention and be accountable to somebody.”
The Bulldogs return five starters on each side of the ball, with the biggest losses being linebacker David Onyiego, now at Catawba, and running back Aschod Meeks at Winston-Salem State.
Southeast will run a 4-2-5 defense, and an offense the coach said will need some explaining.
“It’s similar to what Auburn does — jet, with a lot of read stuff,” he said. “A very quick short passing game, very quick. Sometimes pistol with lots of screens and bubbles.
“But we probably won’t throw as much as last year’s team did. We eventually want to be like West Virginia was a few years ago when it was all run. I like the read, jet, jet-fake and power read. We want to control the clock, even with no huddle.”
The starter at quarterback will be junior Dylan Parham (6-foot-5, 205 pounds), a pocket passer who completed 73 of 171 for 850 yards last season already has an offer from N.C. State. Senior Cameron Marshmon (5-10, 155) is Parham’s backup, but is a slotback/cornerback who should rarely leave the field.
“Cameron (100 receiving yards for three TDs) can stick with any receiver,” Thibodeau said. “And he’s an unbelievable person who’s being recruited by several Ivy League schools.”
Other two-way senior starters will be wideout/safety Jaquell Taylor and tight end/middle linebacker Timarcus Simpson.
“Taylor (199 receiving yards for three TDs) is getting some Division I looks,” Thibodeau said. “And Simpson is just a good football player on both sides of the ball.”
Senior Brandon Flint should be the Bulldogs’ most frequent ballcarrier, while senior tackle John Hunter (6-3, 240) will anchor the offensive line.
Senior tackle Shaq Boye (6-1, 250) is a stalwart on the defensive line, while the Bulldogs have a key senior transfer in middle linebacker Kashard Howell (6-0, 210) from Nash Central.
“Howell is solid muscle,” Thibodeau said. “He may be a short-yardage back for us as well.”
Thibodeau said the GNRC race should be wide open this season — behind traditional favorite Garner.
“There’s a lot of change, and there should be a big struggle for second to about sixth,” he said. “There are solid players throughout the conference. And the first couple of games will show us how we stack up.
“We feel confident we’re on the right track, but there are tough teams everywhere in our conference. There are no cupcakes.”