South Granville used a veteran offensive line to pound out a 28-21 victory over Bunn a year ago in the game that decided the Northern Carolina 2A football championship.
Many of the Vikings’ blockers graduated, and South Granville coach Mike Hobgood left after the 9-3 season to become coach at Leesville Road.
Bunn, on the other hand, returns eight offensive and seven defensive players who contested for the title during an 8-5 season that included wins in seven of eight final regular-season games.
“We’re much stronger and a little tougher than we were last year,” said coach David Howle, who returned as coach last year after a four-year absence.
The Wildcats are loaded with fast runners, who will double as offensive and defensive backs, and they should be improved inside with junior tackles Jackson Leggett (6-foot-4, 275 pounds) and Justin Holder (6-3, 290), plus tight end Dominic Seda (6-3, 290).
South Granville returns runner Sean Bowman, who rushed for 2,328 yards and added 151 yards in receptions. Linebacker Deonte King leads the Vikikngs defense.
Franklinton, which was 8-4 last year, graduated 23 seniors and lost most of its offensive production. The Rams’ key probably is on defense. Franklinton scored at least three touchdowns in each loss, including a key 67-57 setback against South Granville.
Coach Jeremy Buck has created excitement in the program.
Southern Vance hopes to keep the defensive momentum it had at the end of last year’s 6-7 season when it nipped South Columbus 12-6 in the first round of the playoffs.
Coach John Ward is in his third season at Warren County and expects a stronger team to run his single wing offense.
Eric McDaniels was named the Roanoke Rapids coach July 14, barely two weeks before the start of practice. Quarterback DeJuan Walker ran for 1,300 yards in 2013 and had 2,000 all-purpose yards during a 2-9 season. Kicker Caleb Pratt has Division I college potential, McDaniels said.
“The big thing is trying to catch up,” McDaniels said. “I’ve got some good assistants, but we’re behind even though we have 10 returning starters.”