The Wake Christian football team is coming off of a hugely successful 2015 season that didn’t end until the Bulldogs were on the wrong end of the score in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state championship game.
That final result last season has driven Wake Christian to come back hungrier than ever, as the Bulldogs now believe they are a team capable of winning a state championship.
“I thought the kids reacted and responded well; it made them hungry and made them believe,” Wake Christian coach Stephen Cochran said. “I’d say there is a new set of expectations with the football program. I think it just makes us hungry and helps us to know that it is something that can be accomplished.”
How do you get back there?
Wake Christian has upped its win total in each of the past three seasons with Cochran at the helm. To do so again this year would mean the program’s first double-digit win season since 2000 when the Bulldogs won the state title in 8-man football.
For Cochran, it’s been important to send the message that it will be even tougher now to maintain that level of success.
“I think probably the biggest thing I’ve talked about is complacency,” Cochran said. “We have not arrived yet and trying to make sure that we understand that we have to go out and compete every single day.
“And now we have to compete more than ever; we’re not sneaking up on anybody. Nobody’s going to be shocked that Wake Christian is playing football.”
Who will be some of the key contributors this season?
The defense has three leaders to rely on entering the season. Seth Bunn at nose tackle, Connor Collins at linebacker and Trevin Muse at cornerback lead a defensive unit that perfected the bend-but-not-break approach.
One of the reasons for the Bulldogs’ success on the defensive side of the ball, especially down the stretch last season, was the strength of the defensive line.
On offense, Nate Williams returns as quarterback. A season after splitting time at the position during which Williams threw for more than 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns, the big-armed junior will be called upon to be the starter.
Speedsters Collins and Muse will be used in the slot, among other places, and the Bulldogs will try to get the ball to two of their most dangerous playmakers in the open field as much as possible.
What’s the biggest question mark entering this season?
Last year was quite possibly the deepest team Wake Christian has had in a long time and nowhere was the overabundance of riches felt more than on the offensive line where the Bulldogs went nine-deep. There’s a good understanding of who may start this year up front but where that depth comes from and what will be offered is still in the figuring out stages.
“Last year was probably the deepest O-line I’ve had, ever,” Cochran said. “We graduated two three-year starters and four seniors, and we need some kids to step up. Our first five is fine, it’s going to be about who steps up to give us numbers six, seven, eight and maybe even a ninth.”
More on the Bulldogs
Last year: 9-4 (1-2 Big East Independent), NCISAA Div. III state runner-up
Five year average: 6-6 (1-3)
Offense: Spread Option
Coaches: Stephen Cochran (head coach), Michael Cochran (DBs), Kevin Barger (WR), Randy Johnson (QBs/RBs), Raymond Ryals (DL), Mike Woods (LBs), Brent Gore (S).
Contributors: Seth Bunn (RB/NT), Connor Collins (RB/LB), Trevin Muse (CB/WR), Camden Woods (OL/DL), Adam Disena (OL/LB), Paul Gore (WR/CB), Grayson Williams (RB/CB), Nate Williams (QB), David Lewis (WR).
The main number: 41—Wake Christian’s defense forced 41 turnovers a season ago, a good number coming as opponents entered the red zone. That number has been steadily climbing in Cochran’s tenure with 24 forced turnovers in his first season at the helm and 29 the year after that. In addition to the takeaways, the Bulldogs blocked three punts and recovered three onside kicks.
Aug. 19 vs. Chatham Central, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 at Trinity Christian, 7 p.m.
Sep. 2 vs. High Point Christian, 7 p.m.
Sep. 9 at Spring Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 16 vs. Hobbton, 7 p.m.
Sep. 23 at Fayetteville Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 30* vs. Harrells Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7* at Ravenscroft, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 BYE
Oct. 21* vs. North Raleigh Christian 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 at Village Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Note: *Conference game