If you haven’t heard about Larry Rountree III, you probably missed a lot of Cap-8 Conference football last year.
Knowing he had to replace former Millbrook running back Marcus Marshall, Rountree stepped up for his first season of varsity football. In his debut last season, the Wildcats’ 34-32 season-opening win over East Wake, he finished with 131 yards on 13 attempts. He scored two touchdowns and averaged more than 10 yards a carry that game.
The rising senior only grew from there, and he is expected to at least duplicate his production this season.
“I think he took everybody by surprise a little bit last year,” Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore said of Rountree. “I think he probably exceeded everybody’s expectations. He works really hard, he’s a great kid with a tremendous work ethic. I think he can build on what he did last year.”
The 5-foot-11, 196-pound Rountree will probably have to for the Wildcats to be offensively sound. Inscore said his experienced defensive line will be a major team strength, but two players are battling for a quarterback slot he hopes enables Rountree’s skills.
Millbrook graduated three-year starter Reid Herring, and juniors Kenny McCray and Ford Werness will duke it out for the start under center.
“Everyone around here knows about Larry, so we have to have a quarterback that’s going to be able to step up and throw the football,” Inscore said. “Reid was a three-year starter. We’re not looking for someone who can do the exact same things. We’re looking for someone to play to their strengths.”
What is the greatest team strength?
Everyone returning to Millbrook’s defensive line played last year. The Cats gave up 15.1 points in the Cap-8 last season and held both Enloe and Sanderson to fewer than seven.
“They’ve got a year of experience; they should be a year better,” Inscore said. “They’ve gotten bigger and they’ve gotten stronger.”
Does Millbrook have a chance to compete for the Cap-8 title?
With Wake Forest a favorite in the preseason coaches poll, Millbrook and Wakefield tied for second. Those two teams have had close races against one another over the years. Last season, Wakefield defeated Millbrook in the regular season but fell to the Wildcats in the playoffs. They were both 5-2 in the conference.
If Millbrook wants to win the conference championship, it’ll likely have to go through Wake Forest and possibly Wakefield, but Inscore is confident in the Cats’ ability to compete.
“I really like what we’ve got here,” he said. “We play Wake Forest tough pretty much every year. They’re the favorite coming in, but I think we have an opportunity. We have an opportunity to go out and challenge for the conference championship. That’s what we want to do.”
How will Millbrook’s nonconference slate prepare it for a tough conference schedule?
Millbrook’s only nonconference loss last year came at Fuquay-Varina. The Cats went on to fall to Wake Forest, 28-7, and Wakefield, 32-21. Losing to Middle Creek in the second round of the state playoffs after eliminating Wakefield accounted for their fourth loss of the year.
Inscore said he views the slate of games before the Cap-8 opener against Enloe on Sept. 23 as another preseason. Millbrook will play East Wake, Knightdale, Fuquay and Northern before league action; those teams combined for a 31-20 record last season.
Inscore likes a tough out-of-conference schedule to prepare for the latter part of the season, where a conference champion and playoff positions are decided.
“You want to play good talent,” he said. “You’re trying to answer a lot of questions before your conference schedule rolls around.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan
Aug. 19 at East Wake, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 at Knightdale, 7 p.m.
Sep. 2 vs. Fuquay-Varina, 7 p.m.
Sep. 9 vs. Northern Durham, 7 p.m.
Sep. 16 BYE
Sep. 23* at Enloe, 7 p.m.
Sep. 30* vs. Wake Forest, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7* vs. Broughton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14* at Wakefield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21* vs. Heritage, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* at Leesville Road, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* vs. Sanderson, 7 p.m.
More on the Wildcats
Last year: 9-4 (5-2 Cap-8 4A), second round 4AA playoffs
Five year average: 8-5 (4-3)
N&O preaseason rank: No. 12
Contributors: Larry Rountree III (Sr., RB), Isaiah Bowman (Sr., WR/CB), Tyler Snead (Jr., WR), Donovan Noel (Jr., OL), Jacob High (Sr., OL), Kenny McCray (Jr., QB), Ford Werness (Jr., QB), Jayden Pauling (Jr., DE), Sam Smith (Sr., DE), Joseph Boletepeli (Jr., DE/OLB), Tahmirr Anderson (Jr., SS), Nick Vinson (DB)
The number: 1 – Game in between Millbrook playing Wake Forest and Wakefield
The quote: “I really like our team. They really seem to care about each other and like each other. That’s something you can’t teach and you can’t force.” – Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore