During David Howle’s 25 years as head coach at Bunn High School, the Wildcats have experienced just one losing season – and that was way back in Howle’s inaugural campaign in 1988.
But the Wildcats had never reached the state finals until Bunn’s storybook surge to the 2AA state championship, where the Wildcats’ ride was stopped by a potent Monroe squad.
With that longtime goal achieved, Howle will now try to figure out what the Wildcats could possibly do for an encore this fall, especially considering that so many key performers were lost to graduation, including school single-season rushing leader Tevin Perry, who soared to over 2,000 rushing yards in 2015 behind a huge, talented offensive line.
That line has been totally revamped this season after all five starters graduated, along with UNC-Pembroke signee Ian Land at tight end.
“We have some good skill players and I think we will be better defensively,” Howle said. “But how our offensive line develops will be the key to our season. We are very green up front. We have some potential and they have been working hard in the weight room. But it’s not easy replacing an entire group, especially the one we had last year that had so many guys who had started two and three years.”
Who are some players to watch?
Senior quarterback Quenten Wright is entering his fourth year as a starter and has verbally committed to Elon University, albeit as a wide receiver. Wright has experience running the Wildcats’ offense, but backup Christian Murray has a strong arm, which means Wright could also see time at wideout as Howle looks to experiment with adding a bit of diversity to Bunn’s longtime wing-T attack.
“I’ve never used a two-quarterback system, but Christian can throw it and Quenten can catch it,” Howle said. “Quenten is a great route-runner, so we might put him some at receiver and use Christian at quarterback. It won’t be 50-50, but maybe 75-25. When we do that, it can open things up a bit and maybe help our offensive line.”
Chris Bumpers (900 yards) returns for his senior season at fullback and linebacker.
D.J. Jones, a senior transfer from Roanoke Rapids, accumulated more than 1,800 yards on the ground for the Jackets as a sophomore.
Omar Rosa gained notoriety in 2015 as Bunn’s “human bowling ball” when he would work at fullback in short-yardage and goal-line situations. A starter along the defensive line, Rosa will also be up front on offense this fall, and Howle still plans to use him at fullback when needed.
Celik Curtis developed into a quality pass rusher by the end of last season and is only a junior. He
What players will they miss the most?
Perry will go down as one of the top running backs in Bunn’s school history.
Bunn’s 2015 offensive line was one to remember, including the likes of Trevor Gupton, Jackson Leggett, Justin Holder, Dillon Hopkins and Joe Price. The all-senior crew helped the Wildcats shatter a school record for most points in a season.
Fabian Avila-Soria was one of the unsung heroes of the Wildcats’ march to the state title game. In the East Regional Finals, Avila-Soria connected on a field goal as time expired to force overtime. In the extra session, Avila-Soria’s successful PAT would be the difference as Clinton would match Bunn’s touchdown – but couldn’t convert its extra point.
“For as much as we talk about a lot of guys, we wouldn’t have made it to the state championship without Fabian,’’ Howle said.
What makes Bunn so good year in and year out?
Howle has tried to keep a simple philosophy at Bunn – gifted skill-position players working behind oversized offensive lines. The Wildcats have never been a fancy offensive juggernaut, but the numbers continue to pile up.
“The kids from this community are just used to working hard,” Howle said. “That fits right in with what we try to do. And once that tradition starts, the new kids come in and feel like they have to do what the last team did. We are a blue-collar team committed to being in the weight room. There aren’t too many schools left in North Carolina like ours.”
More on the Wildcats
Last Year: 13-3 (5-0 Northern Carolina 2A), 2AA runner-up
Five-year average: 8-6 (4-2)
Preseason N&O rank: No. 25
Coaches: David Howle (head coach), Chris Lewis (Off. coordinator), Steve Chromy (Def. coordinator), Dale Murphy (DBs), Al Smith (DL), Terrance Blackwell (DL), Devonte Keith (OL), Parker Haake (WRs), Larry McKeithan (DBs), Rodney Medlin (OL/Special Teams), Jess Richardson (LBs)
Contributors: Christian Murray (Sr., QB/TE), D.J. Jones (Sr., RB), Quenten Wright (Sr., QB/WR), Victor Dunston (Sr., WR/DB), Dylan Timberlake (Jr., LB/TE), Chris Bumpers (Sr., RB/LB), Celik Curtis (Jr., DE), Justin Miller (Sr., LB), Johnathan Thomason (Sr., OL), Omar Rosa (Sr., OL/DL/FB), Kyle Kettels (Jr., TE/DL)
The main number: 6 – Bunn lost its six best blockers to graduation.
Aug. 19 at Fike, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Northwest Halifax, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 1# at Southern Nash, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Northern Vance, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Louisburg, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Nash Central, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 BYE
Oct. 7* at Southern Vance, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14* at Roanoke Rapids, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21* vs. South Granville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28* vs. Franklinton, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4* at Warren County, 7:30 p.m.
Note: *conference game, #Thursday game