How far does one win go? For Rolesville, the lone win in its inaugural varsity football season was a tone-setter.
The first-year varsity Rams went 1-10 (1-6) in their debut, snatching a 14-7 Greater Neuse River Conference victory against Knightdale.
“I think it made us hungry ... Getting the one win was huge because the guys knew how hard we worked last year,” Rolesville coach Jermaine Evans said. “They know how it feels to win, and they want to return to that feeling.”
This year the school will have its first senior class, and Evans said the depth will be better. Fewer players will be asked to play both offense and defense.
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Despite returning every starter, Evans said there will be competition at every position. He asks his returning players “We went 1-10 with you, what are you going to do to take us to the next level?”
Rolesville’s offense clicked more at the end of the year, topping the 21-point mark three times in the final five weeks. Wide receiver Colby Cooper is the top returning receiver in the Triangle, with more than 1,000 yards as a junior.
But the Rams’ improvement will hinge on a more physically developed offensive line.
“We haven’t found a lot of the larger kids,” Evans said. “We’re starting to get some of that girth up front. We’re starting to see some of the pieces we’re looking for.”
The same goes defensively.
“We were not good in the box on either side of the ball,” Evans said. “We were young, we were weak, and I think we’ve improved a lot in those areas.”
Rolesville will be solid in the secondary thanks to E.J. Hicks, Micah Sharpe, Greg Bargeman and Jamond DeBose. Evans hopes it’s enough for the Rams to jump into the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
“The goal for these guys is to sneak in,” Evans said. “Find a way to win those games that we need to win.
“At this point it won’t matter to me if we’re a 16-seed. It’s setting that precedent, that bar, that standard of ‘We’re going to the playoffs every year’ ... Playing football in November has got to be a goal.”
Offense: Pro-style gun.
Contributors: QB Carnaji Andrews; RB Josh Branch; RB/DB E.J. Hicks; WR Colby Cooper; WR Andrew DeBernardo; OL Evan Tulensa; OL Dan Noblin; OL Tyron Cooper; DT Malik Bailey; DT Lamin Trawalley; DE Jaylen Davis; DE Dominique Williams; LB Noah Jenkins; LB Alec Payne; DB Micah Sharpe; DB Greg Bargeman; DB Jamond DeBose.
Expected team strength: Secondary.
Question mark: Offensive line.
Player they’ll miss the most: None! The upside, if there is one, of having no seniors.
The main number: 39.5 - The Rams will need to cut down the 39.5 points allowed per game.
The quote: Evans on his players buying into principles he put into place two years ago in its first year: “They’re starting to sound like us.”
Game to watch: Sept. 4 at Enloe. A win here sets the Rams on the right track to make a second-season jump.
N&O football previews
The News & Observer will have a high school football story nearly every day from now leading up to the start of the season on Friday, Aug. 21. The area’s fall sports previews will run on Sunday, Aug. 16.
Up next: Cary