Last year was classic Fuquay-Varina football. The Bengals won double-digit games for the seventh time in the last decade, averaged more than seven yards per carry (323.8 per game) and got to the third round of the 4AA playoffs.
You’d have to go back more than a decade to find the last time the Bengals didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher, even though the faces change often in the backfield and on the line.
The Bengals are arguably the Triangle’s best program at moving players to fill any holes left by graduation, and that will come in handy this year.
“Last year I said we’re going to have to throw the ball, but then Josh Arrington (1,483 yards, 11 TDs), who had played linebacker for two years, comes in at B-back and does an outstanding job and Colten Smith (1,267 yards, 23 TDs) just came out of nowhere,” said Fuquay-Varina coach Jeb Hall.
Who are some players to watch?
Brycen Braswell has the nimble feet needed to run the option and a big arm to keep the defense honest. Michael Roberson has started at free safety and wingback (570 yards rushing) and now moves to wide receiver.
Jonathan Cole was an N&O All-Metro pick after starring on both sides of the line.
Isaac Morgan, the fifth-leading rusher last year (230 yards), gets the vital role of B-back (fullback) to move the chains while sophomores Tyrese Davis and Tyrus Townsend start as the wingbacks.
Who steps up on defense?
Fuquay-Varina’s success last year on defense was due in part to having nine returning starters, but many of those standouts graduated.
The line is in good shape, but other players have moved around elsewhere. Braswell may play some at safety, where he’s one of the best tacklers. Mo Bagley moves from safety to middle linebacker to help replace four-year starter Austin Pluckhorn.
“He’s fast and he’s athletic, so I think he can do it,” Hall said of Bagley.
What’s the biggest key?
Outside of the usual keys – not turning the ball over and milking the clock – the Bengals are relying on some sophomores. If they step up in their roles, there are enough returners elsewhere to keep last year’s success rolling into 2016.
More on the Bengals
Last year: 12-2 (6-1 Southwest Wake 4A), third round 4AA playoffs
Five year average: 8-4 (5-3)
Preseason N&O rank: No. 11
Coaches: Jeb Hall (HC), Tim Pauluzzi (QBs), Kenny Jones (RBs), Ben Honeycutt (WRs), Brian Leckonby (WRs), Dale Lowe (OL), Vincent Pratama (DL), Derrick Redman (DL), Eric Pulling (LBs), Shawn Underwood (OLBs), Neal Eichhorn (DBs)
Contributors: Brycen Braswell (Sr., QB/S), Tyrus Townsend (Soph., RB), Tyrese Davis (Soph., RB), Michael Roberson (Sr., WR/DB), Isaac Morgan (Sr., FB), Kevin Martinez (Sr., OL), Jonathan Cole (Sr., OL/DL), Mo Bagley (Sr., MLB), Trey Thornton (Sr., S), David Henson (Sr., K)
The main number: 119 – the number of Bengals kids in the program to split between varsity and JV.
Aug. 19 at Harnett Central, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Sanderson, 7 p.m.
Sep. 2 at Millbrook, 7 p.m.
Sep. 9* vs. Apex Friendship, 7 p.m.
Sep. 16* at Athens Drive, 7 p.m.
Sep. 23* vs. Green Hope, 7 p.m.
Sep. 30* at Holly Springs, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7* at Apex, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13#* at Middle Creek, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 BYE
Oct. 28* vs. Panther Creek, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* vs. Cary, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game; #Thursday game.