In coach David Howle’s office is a hanging helmet collection representing the many schools his Bunn players have played college football. He has everything from Notre Dame and Penn State to Guilford College.
Howle, who has players at North Carolina and N.C. State this season, said he used received calls from other coaches wondering what his secret was. Why have college recruiters taken such notice of this tiny Franklin County town for so many years?
It’s hard to explain, said Howle. But the community feel at the school sets it apart in many ways.
“The tradition, it carries over. Last year I had 10 or so kids who I coached their daddies, which means I’m getting old,” said Howle, who coached Bunn for 21 years before stepping aside for four.
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He will start his third year back this fall.
The Wildcats return 18 starters this season.
“We’re getting a little growth from the Raleigh area, but mostly these are kids who grew up here, played youth league … There’s not many schools like that any more,” he said. “On Friday nights everybody (in town) comes to the game. It’s just a neat place to be.”
Last year’s Wildcats (8-5, 3-2) finished third in the Northern Carolina Conference but avenged a regular-season loss to league foe South Granville in the first round of the 2AA playoffs.
Bunn lost two 1,000-yard running backs – Thomas Jones and speedster Ashton Avery – but returns Tevin Perry (478 yards rushing) and an all-senior offensive line that won’t be needed to play both on both sides.
12: Bunn has made it to the second round of the football playoffs in each of the past 12 seasons.
But the X-factor is improving the passing numbers. Big tight end Ian Land was the Wildcats’ leading receiver with 104 yards on four catches.
“We’ve got to throw the ball better, spread people out,” Howle said.
Howle has adjusted his coaching to fit today’s students but was a bit frustrated at how his team tackled last year. He knows the teams that play the best defense win more in the postseason.
“The game has gotten now where you pick up the paper on Saturday and 50-40 (final scores). You don’t see that 21-7 game anymore,” he said.
Contributors: QB Quenten Wright; RB Tevin Perry; TE/DL Ian Land; OL Justin Holder; OL Dillon Hopkins; OL/LB Adam Black; OL Jackson Leggett; OL Trevor Gupton; DL Joe Price; DL Daequan Yancey; LB/FB Davonte Caldwell; LB/RB Chris Bumpers; DB Bruce Adams; DB Tyree Person; K Fabian Avila Soria.
Expected team strength: Offensive line.
Question mark: Defensive backs.
Player they’ll miss the most: RB Thomas Jones. Had 1,605 yards rushing with 22 touchdowns.
The main number: 12 – straight years with at least one postseason win.
The quote: Howle: “The big thing we try to do is to get our kids to love one another and play together. And if you can do that, you’ve got something special.”
Game to watch: Sept. 3 at Southern Nash. One of two major nonconference tests for the Wildcats. A win here sets up a great season.
Last five years
2014: 8-5 (3-2), 2AA second round
2013: 8-5 (4-1), 2AA second round
2012: 10-3 (7-0), 2AA third round
2011: 9-4 (6-1), 2AA third round
2010: 11-3 (5-1), 2AA third round
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Up next: Athens Drive, Jordan (online-only), Princeton