Fans can expect to see a new look in terms of play calling, but the Rolesville Rams will look very familiar in terms of faces on the football field this fall.
The Rams boast a roster that features nearly 30 seniors as they enter the third varsity season for the young program and the first under head coach Wilson Helms.
Helms was named to the position in early July, leaving little time for players to get acquainted to a new coach and some new elements he brings to the system, but he has made it a point to avoid swamping the team in an effort to keep the transition as smooth as possible.
The 2015 Rams broke even overall, posted a winning record in the Greater Neuse River 4A and reached the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs for the first time.
How will the Rams adjust to the coaching change?
So far, they’ve responded well, as far as Helms is concerned.
He said change often prompts a shock factor and even a lull, but he hasn’t noticed that in his short time at the school.
Helms has opted not to tamper with some of the good things that have worked for the program in the past. He has, however, increased the pace of practice and plays.
“That’s been a bit of an adjustment for some of the guys, but they’ve bought into it and they’re running with it,” Helms said. “I think they like what it’s doing to their football IQ.”
Who are some players to watch?
Quarterback Carnaji Andrews returns for his senior season after a 2,100-yard passing campaign as a junior.
“He’s a great leader on the field in terms of being vocal and off the field as well,” Helms said. “He can throw the ball well. He can fit it in a window when we need that, but we’re definitely looking for him to run the ball more and be more of a dual-threat quarterback. That’s something that should be different from last year.”
Senior Receivers EJ Hicks (607 yards, 4 TDs in 2015) and Chris Branch also run solid routes and know how to make defenders miss.
Three other seniors will be key for the Rams on defense: inside linebacker Dakota McCants, outside linebacker Dominique Williams and defensive back Jamond DuBose.
“(DuBose) is almost like a QB of the defense back there playing safety or corner,” Helms said.
Can the Rams make a return trip to the playoffs?
It appears in the cards. Helms wants to contend for a GNRC title and make that second week in November, but his focus for now is on the Aug. 19 rematch against Terry Sanford, which shut out the Rams in Fayetteville last season.
“We just want to approach every day with a hard-work mentality and go into practice remembering there are other people out there working too,” he said. “I’m a big fan of the idea that the wins and losses will take care of themselves if you take care of your mindset and what you can do at the time.”
More on the Rams
Last year: 6-6 (4-3 Greater Neuse River 4A), first round 4A playoffs
Five year average: 4-8 (3-5)
Preseason N&O rank: Unranked
Defense: 3-4, multiple
Coaches: Wilson Helms (HC/OC/QB), Anthony McKoy (DC), Josh Kinkade (OL), Josh Diamond (WR), Joe Testerink (RB), Matthew Wilson (LB), Leo Barthelmess (DL).
Contributors: Carnaji Andrews (Sr., QB), Will Lee (Jr., WR), Chris Branch (Sr., WR), Dominique Williams (Sr., OLB), Dakota McCants (Sr., ILB), EJ Hicks (Sr., WR), Jamond DuBose (Sr., DB), Michael Nwachukwu (Sr., OL), Josiah Lofton (Sr., OL), Malik Bailey (Sr., DL)
The main number: 29 – the Rams’ roster features 29 seniors this fall.
Aug. 19 vs. Terry Sanford, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 at Heritage, 7 p.m.
Sep. 1# vs. Enloe, 7 p.m.
Sep. 9 at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.
Sep. 16* vs. West Johnston, 7 p.m.
Sep. 23* at Knightdale, 7 p.m.
Sep. 30* at Southeast Raleigh, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7* vs. East Wake, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 BYE
Oct. 21* at Harnett Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* vs. Clayton, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* at Garner, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game; #Thursday game.