When coach Burton Cates says his defense has a chance to be “pretty good,” the teams on Lee County’s football schedule this year will have to take note.
Last year’s Yellow Jackets squad had the top scoring defense in the greater Triangle area, allowing just 8.9 points per game. Lee (9-3, 4-2), was nipped 14-12, 14-3 and 21-20 in its three losses.
The 21 points allowed to Orange, which came in the first round of the 3AA playoffs as a potential game-winning two-point conversion was stopped with seconds to play, was a season high.
Seven starters are back for this year’s team, not including all-conference offensive lineman Alek Phillips being shifted to defense this year.
“We started a couple of freshmen on defense who were real hungry and some young kids, and they just played extremely hard,” Cates said. “They played hard all year.”
8.9: Points allowed last year.
278: Wins by coach Burton Cates.
4: Passing touchdowns allowed in 2014.
There’s a quarterback competition going on, but across the board Lee has lots of depth. The stalwart secondary brings back lanky senior Justin Bethea, who had seven interceptions last year.
“His size is one thing – he’s 6-3 – and he’s got good hand-eye coordination,” Cates said. “He reads routs good because he’s a receiver.”
Nine has been the magic number for Lee County, which has won nine games in each of the last three years. The junior varsity team won nine of its 10 games last year as well.
“The thing we believe in is before you become real good, you’ve got to be consistent,” Cates said. “We think over the last three years we’ve had pretty good consistency.”
Cates is 278-111 in his career, ranking fourth among N.C.’s active coaches and 14th all-time, according to CarolinaPreps.com.
Entering Cates’ seventh year at Lee County, the program has taken winning roots.
There are 14 seniors this year, but the following classes are much larger. A good season in 2015 indicates the success can keep on rolling..
“They don’t want it to stop here,” Cates said. “We want to take it to the next level.”
Contributors: RB Jucobie Minter; WR/S Justin Bethea; WR Andrew Phillips; WR Drayton Lamb; WR Griffin Dunne; OL Jerome Ferguson; OL Eric Dotson; DL Alek Phillips; DL J.L. Ledbetter; DL Jonathan Terrell; LB Jake Thomas; LB Keaton Forbes; LB Jordan Foushee; DB Patrick Foushee.
Team strength: Secondary.
Question mark: Quarterback.
The number: 4 – the Jackets allowed just four passing TDs. Three of the four secondary starters return.
Player they’ll miss the most: OL Quinn Setzer. The center made the N.C. Coaches Association all-star game.
The quote: “We’re not opposed to playing the two-quarterback system, but we’d like for one to rise up,” Cates said.
Game to watch: Oct. 9 vs Fayetteville Terry Sanford. The visiting Bulldogs won the Cape Fear Valley Conference title last year.
Last five years
2014: 9-3 (4-2), 3AA first round
2013: 9-3 (5-1), 3AA first round
2012: 9-4 (6-2), 4A second round
2011: 4-6 (3-5)
2010: 8-6 (4-4), 4A third round