The name that’s come up most often as the team to beat in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference?
That’s not a surprise.
The Mustangs (12-3, 7-0) have won the last three conference championships and went to the 4AA East final a year ago, losing to Wake Forest 24-23.
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The next team other coaches have been mentioning is Green Hope. That may be a surprise because the Falcons went 5-7 (2-5) last year. Yet Green Hope was in every game. All seven points were by 15 points or less.
Green Hope and Middle Creek will face one another on Oct. 3.
“When I first got here it was, ‘Oh, just win a game,’ then it was, ‘OK, let’s make the playoffs.’ and now it’s, ‘Win in the playoffs,’ ” Green Hope coach Kwame Dixon said.
After those two, it’s anyone’s guess.
Panther Creek (9-3, 6-1) has talent, but it’s young talent. Head coach Sean Crocker calls his large sophomore class “good football players” but adds “they just haven’t played on Friday night a lot.”
Holly Springs (6-6, 5-2) has a new head coach Wayne Bragg and how fast the offense gets his pro-style system down-pat will have an effect on the SWAC race.
Fuquay-Varina (6-6, 3-4) is an underdog for once. Second-year head coach Jeb Hall likes the change.
“We don’t want anybody talking about us, that’s fine. We’ll slip up on people,” Hall said.
Cary (4-7, 2-5) is confident because of its size. The Imps have four players who tip the scales near 300 pounds and about 20 at 240 pounds or more, but second-year coach Kurt Glendenning knows it’s not that easy.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” he said.
Athens Drive (4-7, 2-5) thinks its found its rhythm in year three under coach Chris Martin.
“I think we can put a good team on both sides of the field,” Martin said, but it will mean many players must play on both sides of the ball.
Apex (2-9, 1-6) thinks it can make a leap in the standings because it has a veteran team that lost three games by six points or less.
“I know our win-loss record didn’t reflect it last year, but we were a much-improved football team,” third-year head coach Joe Kilby said. “Disappointing for us in the end, but it’s also a motivator for our guys going into this year. ”
20 area players to watch
Toney Bass, Panther Creek, Jr. RB
Ian Boyd, Apex, Jr. WR/S
Juwan Byrd, Panther Creek, Sr. CB
Marcus Cox, Holly Springs, Sr. LB/WR
Bryce Dixon, Green Hope, Jr. WR
Ben Foote, Apex, Sr. CB/K/WR
Ridge Ford, Green Hope, Jr. S
Earl Gill, Cardinal Gibbons, Sr. WR*
Brant Grisel, Middle Creek, Sr. QB
Trevion Hackney, Cary, Sr. RB
Luke Massei, Green Hope, Sr. QB
Tyree Manuel, Athens Drive, Sr. DL
A.J. O’Neal, Holly Springs, Sr. LB/WR
Terry Patterson, Middle Creek, Sr. OL/DL
Anthony Rush, Cary, Sr. DT/TE
Yorick Sands, Middle Creek, Sr. CB
Tray Staten, Holly Springs, Sr. RB
Isaiah Totten, Apex, Jr. RB
Jackson Wetherby, Athens Drive, Sr, WR/S/LS
Damarus Williams, Fuquay-Varina, Sr. FB
*Cardinal Gibbons plays in the Big Eight Conference with other 3A schools.