It may sound odd, but returning a mere 11 starters – six on offense and five on defense – is a big deal for Rod Sink.
The Wakefield football coach said it’s more than he has had in years.
“Last year, I think we only had like two returning starters,” Sink said. “It showed.”
Though the Wolverines finished 7-6 and advanced to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA playoffs last season, Sink said it took them too long to find consistency.
To him, it got better at then end – but he hopes that starts sooner this season, as Wakefield’s returning starters include some of 2014’s top producers in junior quarterback Matt McKay and receivers Marius Cooper and Dontel Dunson. Cooper went for 879 recieving yards and seven touchdowns, while Dunson contributed eight touchdowns and 704 yards.
“Hopefully, bringing back (Cooper, Dunson and McKay) will bring a lot more consistency to the table,” Sink said. “That was our biggest issue last year. We were kind of up and down depending on the week and kinda depending on how things went.”
The Wolverines won three of their last five games, including a playoff victory over Heritage, which had beaten Wakefield in the regular season.
This season, the Wolverine personnel feel they’ve conditioned and bonded well enough in the offseason to make a difference come Aug. 21. They host Middle Creek.
“Last year, we had guys just filling in, because we had a bunch of seniors graduate (the year before),” senior defensive lineman Andrew Lair said. “We just weren't really meshing because guys were learning their position during the season, which you can’t have. Guys know the position this year, and they don’t have to think as much.
“They’re a lot more confident this year.”
Lair added Wakefield’s defense should be fast, since speed was a focus this summer.
The other side of the ball also had a chance to build its confidence.
McKay, who was injured during 7-on-7s last season and didn’t play the first couple of games in 2014, said he feels more comfortable controlling the offense.
“I’m definitely healthy,” the 6-foot-3 quarterback said. What assured him of his game and connection with his receiving corps during the preseason was “watching more film and getting more comfortable with (them)” and “working together and being a team and finding the right ways to be successful.”
As a sophomore, McKay finished with 2,260 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. While he looks forward to a couple of Cap-8 matchups, the Wolverines must first make it through their demanding nonconference slate – which includes Southern Durham. Southern rumbled its way to the third round of the 3AA playoffs undefeated before falling to Chapel Hill.
“We can’t look forward to Wake Forest or Heritage or anybody like that,” Sink said. “We gotta focus on our nonconference, which will be a lot tougher than it has been in years. Nonconference is stronger. Our conference schedule, we know that’s always going to be tough.”
Contributors: ATH Andrew Bennett, OL Charlie Butler, WR Marius Cooper, WR Dontel Dunson, RB Rico Jenkins, DL Andrew Lair, DB Dylan Peebles, LB Tavin Sharp.
Expected team strength: Core of returners.
The number: 11. Significant amount of returning starters compared to the last few years.
The quote: QB Matt McKay on strength of receivers: “They’re very elusive. They can catch well, and they get to where I need them to get to.”
Game to watch: Sept. 11 at Southern Durham. This will likely be the toughest nonconference opponent. Wakefield travels for this game, and it could determine how it fares in the Cap-8.
Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan
Last five years
2014: 7-6 (4-3), 4AA second round
2013: 11-2 (6-1), 4AA second round
2012: 11-2 (6-1), 4AA second round
2011: 9-3 (5-2), 4AA first round
2010: 10-3 (5-1), 4AA second round