Randy Ragland returned to Middle Creek and found it much like 2010, when he left his position as offensive coordinator to take his first head coaching job. The Mustangs still run his old offense, the spread, and the expectations are still high.
That’s allowed Ragland, hired in early June after stops at Fairmont and West Johnston, to hit the ground running.
“It’s still the same thing that I installed back in 2006,” Ragland said. “Nothing’s changed about it, to be honest. My verbiage is still a little different on some things, but 95 percent of the stuff is the same. It’s been a smooth transition. ... It made it easy on me. I didn’t have to re-coach.”
Middle Creek, which finished last season 9-3 (5-2 Southwest Wake 4A), is flush with talent and depth, another constant from Raglan’s time on the sidelines. The Mustangs will be among the most experienced teams this year, with about 24 seniors and 34 juniors.
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“Even though they’re juniors, we expect to win now,” Ragland said. “As coaches, that makes our jobs a lot easier.”
The strongest areas are the speed positions – running back, receiver and the secondary.
All-conference pick Ashton Mitchell led last year’s receivers with 509 yards and four touchdowns. Johnathan Spencer, all-conference as a corner, added 230 yards and two touchdowns. Shammond Hicks, Matt Schmitt and Riley Frederiksen are also back.
But who will throw them the ball?
Hunter Grisel and Dominique Shoffner are in a quarterback competition that will likely come down to the final scrimmage. Grisel was 2 of 2 passing for 9 yards last season; Shoffner started on junior varsity.
“They haven’t separated themselves from each other at this point,” Ragland said. “Dominique is more of an athletic-type quarterback who can do some things with his feet while Hunter ... he’s probably more of a gunslinger who can sit back there and pick teams apart.”
There are no worries about the defense, save for depth on the line.
“In my tenure as a head coach, this is probably going to be the best defense I’ve ever had,” Ragland said. “We’ve got high expectations for those guys.”
Contributors: RB DeAndre Jones; RB Josh Drake; RB Darian Fogg; WR Ashton Mitchell; WR Matt Schmitt; WR Riley Frederiksen; WR Shammond Hicks; OL Connor Baroniunas; OL Bobby Marschewski; OL Terrell Adams; OL Caleb Woody; DL Zayvon Powell; LB John Singleton; LB Brendan Weinberg; DB Tayvon Holland; CB/WR Johnathan Spencer; S Daniel Jackson; S Isaiah Herring; K/P Jared Shea.
Expected team strength: Secondary.
Question mark: Depth in the trenches.
Player they’ll miss the most: RB Elijah Perry. When he was healthy, the Mustangs looked unbeatable. Without him, they became one-dimensional. Averaged 116 yards rushing per game.
The main number: 12 – Middle Creek has made it to the playoffs in all 12 of its varsity seasons.
The quote: Ragland: “I’m hoping we got all our injuries out of the way, because we’ve been hit already with a bunch of injuries this year. It’s crazy.”
Game to watch: Sept. 18 at Panther Creek. The “Battle of the Creeks” has come down to single digits in each of the past five meetings.
Past 5 seasons
2014: 9-4 (5-2), 4AA first round
2013: 12-3 (7-0), 4AA East final
2012: 11-2 (8-0), 4AA second round
2011: 10-4 (7-1), 4AA third round
2010: 9-4 (6-2), 4AA second round