Preview: Fuquay-Varina football enjoying new underdog role

08/13/2014 12:00 AM

08/10/2014 7:19 PM

The memories of local high school football rumor mill participants tend to be short. No matter what Fuquay-Varina did the previous fall, by the end of summer they’ll lead you to believe the Bengals are going to struggle.

This is what happens when a run-heavy team like Fuquay-Varina enters a 7-on-7 scrimmage – but no one’s ever accused rumor mill participants of having great football acumen.

Last fall, the Bengals had an average year by their standards. A young team with strong senior leaders finished 6-6 with a first-round 4AA playoff loss to rival Middle Creek.

Gossip all you want, second-year head coach Jeb Hall says. He likes the idea of the Bengals flying under the radar.

“We don’t want anybody talking about us, that’s fine. We’ll slip up on people,” Hall said.

Hall and assistant coach Tim Paluzzi coordinate the Bengals’ flexbone offense, where new skill fullback Damarus Williams leads the way.

Williams is the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference’s leading returning rusher. He had 1,574 yards last year with 12 touchdowns. Also back is running back Eric Sugarman, who ran for 337 yards and 3 TDs.

Receivers Travis Knick, Christian Pollard and Michael Roberson will get their first varsity starts this year.

Sophomore Brycen Braswell will be the team’s quarterback. He completed one pass last year, and it was an 87-yarder. Altogether, Fuquay only put the ball in the air 85 times.

“He’s a really good leader to be so young,” Hall said.

Tight end Jake Slater (41 yards) returns as well. His main duties are blocking, where he joins linemen Robert Givens and Darius Evans.

“Up front I think we’re going to be better. Those guys last year did a good job, but they were tiny. This year it seems like we’re a lot bigger,” Hall said.

On defense, coordinator Eric Pulling replaces the retired Dale Lowe. The Bengals are shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-2-5.

“We’re going to have a lot of (2013) sophomores who are coming into their junior year who had a lot of playing time last year,” Hall said.

On the line, Miguel Garcia is the lone senior, joined by one junior and mostly sophomores, including Roberson.

Linebackers Austin Pluckhorn and Colton Smith return to their starting spots.

Sugarman, a safety, and corner Zack James will man the secondary. The team is working to find a kicker and punter.

The Bengals are thin in some areas, and with about 45 varsity players, some will play extensively on both sides of the ball.

But to doubt them altogether might be the wrong way to go, if Hall’s attitude is any indication.

“Our thing this year is ‘earn it.’ We’re going to earn everything we get,” Hall said. “And hopefully by the end we’re playing good football.”

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