Cedric Dargan, second-year football coach at Knightdale, isn’t interested in talking about how many games he thinks his team will win this fall. Last season’s record is of no real concern.
“Our goals haven’t changed,” Dargan said. “We always want to compete for the conference championship and then make a run into the playoffs. We want to be undefeated at the end of every week.”
It’s an ambitious goal for a team that went 3-8 overall and 1-6 in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference last season.
But it was that same type of ambition that helped Knightdale to its first league title and third-round appearance in the 4A state playoffs in 2013. Dargan was part of that team, having served as defensive coordinator for the Knights for the 2010-13 season before taking the head spot last year.
Knightdale went back and forth in 2014. Its one conference win came over Harnett Central, 41-20, and was sandwiched by close losses to Clayton (32-28) and Southeast Raleigh (12-10).
“Last year we had struggled to be consistent and that just comes down to practice. We have to practice the same every week, coming off a win or a loss or a bye week,” Dargan said. “The close losses we had, most were about the turnovers late in the game and where we turned the ball over.
“We’re focused on limiting turnovers from the quarterback and running backs and protecting the football.”
The team has plenty of promise on offense this season, with four tested backs and a quarterback returning as seniors.
Malik Branch is the returning rushing leader and the fastest player on the team. He’s joined by running backs Jaelen Williams (also a returning all-conference defensive back) and hard-running Taurez Williams, and fullback Josh Schenck, whom Dargan calls the “cerebral kid” of the bunch.
“He has the highest GPA on the team,” Dargan said of Schenck. “He will be making the defensive calls, but he could probably make the offensive calls too. That’s how smart he is.”
The Knights also have a senior, dual-threat quarterback in Andre Willis, a three-sport participant who Dargan considers to be one of the best athletes at the school.
Dargan said another senior, linebacker and offensive lineman Corey Wiggins, is the team’s most technically sound player on both sides of the ball.
“He’s the ironman that doesn’t get tired,” the coach said.
Wiggins’ presence and leadership will be a necessity, as he is the only player returning to the offensive line from last year.
“The others are all JV players from last year,” Dargan said. “The faster they grow up and get used to varsity football, the better off we’re going to be.”
Defense: 5-2 or 3-4.
Contributors: QB Andre Willis; QB Adrian Edmond; RB Malik Branch; RB Taurez Williams; RB/DB Jaelen Williams, FB/LB Joshua Schenck; FB Justice Burgess; LB/OL Corey Wiggins; FS Nyjil Thomas; DB Jhasire Morgan, DL Salaam Brown, OLB/TE Drew Tuazama.
Expected team strength: Offensive backfield.
Question mark: Offensive line.
Player they’ll miss the most: Duncan Harris, a three-time all-conference offensive lineman. “You’re always going to miss someone like that,” Dargan said.
The quote: “We had the opportunity to have an actual offseason this year. Last season we had three coaches on staff during the summer. This summer we have six coaches there to participate.”
Game to watch: At Millbrook, Aug. 28. “They’re the hot pick right now especially with the QB coming back, so that’s going to be a good test for us early in the season and good measurement for where we need to be as a team.”
Last five years
2014: 3-8 (1-6)
2013: 11-2 (6-0), 4A third round
2012: 7-4 (5-2), 4A first round
2011: 4-6 (3-4)
2010: 3-8 (3-4)
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