The Millbrook Football program is in the midst of one of their most successful stretches in school history. This summer, the team graduated four offensive lineman, and a quarterback that were three year starters for a squad that has appeared in the second round of the playoffs or better in each of the last three seasons. The loss of talent has pundits believing that 2016 could be a down year for the Wildcats but with so many young contributors from last season returning, Coach Clarence Inscore thinks that this year’s group could shock a lot of people in the area.
Back from a 9-4 team a year ago is the Cap-8 Conference’s leading rusher, the conference’s leader in interceptions, Millbrook’s top three leaders in sacks, the team’s leading receiver, and four of the team’s five returners/special teams members. Obviously, the headliner of that group will be senior running back Larry Rountree III. At 5’11, 204 lbs Rountree stood atop the leaderboards in the Cap-8 with 1,971 rushing yards on 184 carries, and he found the endzone a team-high 23 times. Rountree who set the school record for most 100+ rushing yard games in a season has seen his recruiting interest sail through the roof as Appalachian State, Boston College, Miami (OH), and Missouri of the SEC offer him; Coastal Carolina, Wake Forest, East Carolina, and NC State are also in the mix as team’s who have interest in Rountree.
Larry will not be the only weapon that Millbrook will have on offense, in fact junior running back Chris Twitty will also get a fair share of the workload in his first varsity season as the ‘Cats plan to align two backs in the backfield this season. Twitty, the younger brother of recent NC State player Charlie Twitty was a force to be reckoned with at the junior varsity level last season and according to Inscore, having a player like Twitty improves the whole offense because he has come in from JV and pushed all of the returning playmakers to step up their level of play. Ahmir Jackson, a junior rounds out the running backs on this year’s team after a solid sophomore season on JV. Another one of those players that will make the move from junior varsity will be 5’10 junior wide receiver, Tyler Snead. Snead led the JV Wildcats in receiving yards and touchdowns last year along with being one of the toughest players in the area to stop as a punt and kick returner. After grabbing two catches in the regular season for the varsity team, Snead turned in his best varsity performance against Middle Creek in the second round of the playoffs as he made a varsity career-high 4 catches for 27 yards.
Lining up at receiver for a third straight season on varsity will be Isaiah Bowman; already a leader on the team, Bowman will see an expanded role in 2016 on and off the field as a mentor to a young group of receivers. Isaiah turned in a phenomenal junior year to the tune of 602 receiving yards over the course of 34 catches. He caught 7 touchdowns last year including a stretch of four games (weeks 10-12 plus the first round of the playoffs) where he caught five touchdowns, and four of them went for 25 yards or more. His big play ability will help open up opportunities for fellow wide receivers, Sam Weeks, Tyson Jackson, KJ Grant, Ibra Ndiaye, Tyrese Bryant, Kareem Lewis, Henry Ruiz, Jamere Myers, Mason Mims, Jacob Miller, and Will East. Tyson Jackson was Millbrook’s second leading receiver at the junior varsity level in 2015, and Sam Weeks is expected to see an expanded role after grabbing a touchdown as one of his two catches last season.
The question marks on offense surround the offensive line, and the quarterback position. Senior center, Jacob High is the only player returning to the line that allow Millbrook to run for 2,471 yards last season. Pasqual Chavez, Jose Martinez, Tyler Royal, and Kelly McLendon are returning senior lineman along with Caleb Hilton who enters his first season with the Wildcats. Juniors, Javon Williams, Jermaine Carpenter, Matt Magas, Drew Lange, Blake Beverly, Korrey Monroe, Donovan Noel, plus sophomore Blake Whitmore are also options for O-Line coach Eric Lautzenheiser to utilize this season. Donovan Noel saw time on varsity last season as a sophomore, and at 6’4, 250 lbs he will see an increased role, especially after picking up offers from UNC Charlotte, and Boston College in the spring.
At Quarterback, the answer is currently: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯….. There are two quarterbacks on this year’s roster and both are juniors who spent last season at the junior varsity level. Coach Inscore has hinted at going as long as he needs to go this season with both Kenny McCray and Ford Werness splitting the time behind center until the team can find a good groove, or one player separates himself from the other. McCray, 5’11 turned in an impressive sophomore season as both his arm, and his feet helped lead the JV Wildcats to a 9-1 season, his dual threat ability will definitely be something to watch in 2016. Werness on the other hand appeared in three varsity games as a freshman at Heritage High School, and last season he shined at the JV level for the Huskies. This summer, Ford made a stellar first impression on the coaching staff at Millbrook by showcasing his big arm at 7-on-7’s with highlight reel throws deep down field.
Millbrook will return loads on talent on the defensive side of the ball. With so much talent on the defensive line, defensive coordinator Ken Helms will have plenty of ways to mix and match his schemes this season. 6’3 Jayden Pauling lined up at defensive end for the first time in his life a year ago, and it only took him two weeks to earn a starting spot that he would not relinquish. Pauling’s sophomore season saw him lead the team with 57 tackles, and 10 sacks along with 5 fumble recoveries, 4 forced fumbles, and his first career interception which he took back to the house in the regular season finale vs. Sanderson last year. Pauling has already grabbed an offer from UNC Charlotte, and expect more to follow as he starts his second season at the position. Right behind Jayden on the sacks list is a fellow rising junior in 6’5 250 lb Joesph Boletepeli whose 5 sacks made up almost a third of his 17 tackles last season. Boletepeli also forced 3 fumbles in 2015, and his performance this spring has earned him scholarship offers from UNC Charlotte, and Boston College; numerous ACC schools are also showing interest in Boletepeli. Brandon Spencer, Jaxson Free, and Remy Emeto are also junior lineman this fall, and Dacaurii Stanley is the only sophomore in the group. Spencer, Stanley, and Emeto were a tough group to block last year on the JV team as they only allowed an average of 6 points per contest. Only two seniors will be defensive lineman this year as Reed Wiley and Sam Smith share those honors, Smith will see an increased role and he is a guy that D-Line coach Michael Hayden thinks will be a big time contributor after he had 34 tackles, and 4 sacks last year.
The Wildcats graduated all three of their starting linebackers from last season but seniors, Tosin Adeoti, Andre Freeman, and Chris Engel could be counted on to see plenty of minutes. Pushing them will be juniors Kameron Scarboro, Jackson Villanova, Joesph Lopez, Nic Williams, Bryan Squires, Isaiah Patterson, and sophomore Alex Santiago. Tom Tillottson, and Scott Herring have a lot to be excited about as linebacker coaches this year especially after Nic Williams was able to shine defensively for the JV team last season, and as a sophomore Bryan Squires showed plenty of potential on varsity with crushing hits to opposing players.
With all of the talent returning up front, it’s going to be pretty hard to run on the Wildcats this season. If team’s opt to throw the ball instead, well that too is going to be pretty hard to do according to Coach Inscore who says that if team performs like it should on paper, they’ll be one of the hardest groups to score on in the county. Nic Vinson will definitely be the guy to watch in the secondary as his seven interceptions were the most in the Cap-8 last season. Vinson is one of five seniors in the secondary this season as Juwan Manning, Caleb Baxter, Cameron Celetti, and even Isaiah Bowman could be counted on as contributors in 2016. You can also expect big plays out of the five juniors, and one sophomore on the list of defensive backs, headlined by Casey Carnevale who started a handful of games at safety as a sophomore; Carnevale registered 17 tackles last season on varsity. Tahmirr Anderson makes the jump up from junior varsity and after a solid spring and summer, the coaches are raving about his ability to shut down the passing game and make big hits when needed. Kenan Delbridge, who had a stretch of grabbing five interceptions in three straight JV games last season makes the move to varsity along with Branden Pierce who hauled in four INT’s for the JV Wildcats. Sophomore, Max Williams had a three interception game at Leesville last season for the JV team and he will see some time on varsity this year along with 5’8 junior Shawntay Mills who will be used as a return man for Millbrook after taking six punts back to the house for junior varsity touchdowns last season.
On the special teams side, Millbrook will look to replace Reid Herring who handled the punting duties last year. Will Gentile is one of two kickers on this year’s squad as he and Jordan Gailey will take on that role. Last year, Gentile came up from junior varsity in week two and was the team’s starting kicker for the remainder of the year as he went 2/6 in his field goal attempts with the longest coming from 27 yards out. He was near-perfect in his extra point attempt though as 44 of his 47 kicks went through the uprights.
Millbrook starts their season on August 19th when the Wildcats hit the road to take on East Wake, before heading to fellow Greater Neuse non-conference opponent Knightdale the next week. The Wildcats open their home schedule against Fuquay Varina on September 2nd, then they are at home the next week versus Northern Durham. Following a bye week, the team opens conference play at Enloe, then they take on Wake Forest at home on September 30th. Cap-8 Conference play continues through November 4th when Millbrook hosts Sanderson on senior night.