Jul 30, 2012
The two most consistent programs in the Tri-Nine in recent years have been Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina. This year, the same two are the favorites to win the conference.
Middle Creek will be without head coach Sean Crocker, instead the Mustangs will be led by former Coastal Carolina coach Mike Castellano after Crocker resigned earlier this year.
Offense will be the strength for Middle Creek – returning eight offensive starters, including three offensive linemen, two wide receivers, two running backs and their quarterback. Last season, quarterback David Salmon completed 197-of-372 passes for 2,906 yards and 31 touchdowns. He also ran for six touchdowns.
Who can Salmon throw to this season? Senior wide receiver Quinton Ray returns after catching 30 passes for 439 yards and two scores last season. And junior wide receiver Curtis Burston caught 37 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns. Burston has the potential to become a major college prospect over the next two seasons.
Fuquay-Varina returns three offensive starters and two defensive starts, but as usual the running game should be the strength of the Bengals this season.
Senior running back Carlton Bridges will lead the ground attack for Fuquay-Varina. An all-conference performer last season, Bridges ran for over 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns. Kyle Smith, who was a starter at safety last season, will likely see time on both sides of the ball this season, helping Bridges at running back. The Bengals also got a transfer from Apex – running back and defensive back Quincy Mangum – who should be an impact player for Fuquay-Varina.
On defense, Fuquay returns defensive back Garrett Suggs who was an all-conference and all-state selection last season with seven interceptions.
Former Middle Creek coach Sean Crocker packed his bags to head north to conference rival Panther Creek during the off season. The Catamounts return three offensive starters and two defensive starters from last year’s squad.
Panther Creek returns running back David Mayaka this year. The 6-foot-1 senior ran for 1,492 yards and 17 touchdowns on 270 carries last season. Junior Dorrell McClain will also get time in the backfield. McClain carried the ball 72 times for 403 yards and three scores. As a defensive back, McClain recorded 26 tackles and four interceptions.
The offensive line will be anchored by 6-foot-2, 300-pound senior Mike Sutton. An all-conference selection last season, Sutton was selected as the top offensive lineman at the VTO Sports Rivals.com NC Elite 100 combine.
Cary will return five starters on both sides of the ball, but they lose a lot at several skill positions.
The Imps' leading returning receiver is senior Jamal Caesar who caught 22 passes for 279 and three touchdowns. Cary lost running back Deandre Henry, but Marquise Sherrod-Cooper is back for his senior season after running for 546 yards and five touchdowns on 126 attempts.
Cary's defense is usually one of the top in the conference. Linebacker and defensive back Obed Mulenda returns this season after posting 51 tackles, four fumble recoveries and two sacks, as does defensive lineman Aaron Plynaar, who had 30 tackles and four sacks last season. Linebacker Anthony Konieczka is one of the top defenders returning this season for the Imps, posting 75 tackles, seven sacks and two fumble recoveries.
The story for much of the Tri-9 will be inexperience and new coaches though. Joe Kilby left Cedar Ridge to take over the reins at Apex after long-time coach Bob Wolfe retired. Jeff Smouse retired from coaching at Athens Drive during the off season, and Chris Martin was promoted from assistant coach to head coach. At Holly Springs, former Leesville Road assistant Will Orbin will take over for David Riggs. Combine those changes with Middle Creek and Panther Creek, and five of the nine teams in the league have new coaches.
This story is closed for comments.