WAKE FOREST — From year-to-year, the objectives don’t change much for Heritage High School football under coach Jason McGeorge.
Each fall, the Huskies want to have a winning season, finish as a top team in the Cap 8 conference and make a deep run in the 4A state playoffs.
Those expectations won’t change in 2013.
This year may be McGeorge’s most experienced and athletic team in the program’s four-year history. He lost just 10 starters to graduation and returns several seniors who have started all three years.
“This team has really come together,” McGeorge said. “They like playing for each other, and they have great respect for each other.”
“The players communicate well and trust each other, which makes it easier for them to play,” he added.
Heritage finished 6-6 overall and 4-3 in the league last season and earned its first playoff appearance.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the pod-seeding system utilized by the N.C. High School Athletic Association pitted Cap 8 teams against one another in the opening round of the playoffs, leaving Heritage to travel to top-ranked Leesville Road.
After losing to them by just three points in the regular season, the Huskies could not get things going their way and lost to the Pride 43-13.
Qualifying for the playoffs in just two years is a sign of progress for the Huskies.
“Usually it’s the third year that a new football program begins to see success,” McGeorge said. “The players have not been coached by anyone else and I think that’s important in their belief in our concepts and strategies.”
McGeorge said over the past two years, his varsity teams have grown from being shell-shocked to being able to make an impact.
“We started gaining some confidence and breeding some success,” he said.
“This season we feel we are very athletic and fast. If we can get some holes filled with quality people, we can have another successful season,” he added.
Defensively, McGeorge wants his players to be one of the top defenses in the conference. “We have to be aggressive,” McGeorge said.
Junior starting quarterback Blake Walters is back behind center this season after being sidelined for part of last year with a knee injury.
“His knee has fully recovered and he’s a tremendous player,” McGeorge said.
Offensively, the Huskies want to spread the field and throw a little more and Walters is also capable of running with the ball, having rushed for around 600 yards in 2012.
“He’s a solid runner,” McGeorge said.
Also back is senior running back Abdul Sesay, who led Heritage’s rushing attack last season with just under 1,000 yards. Joining Sesay in the backfield will be Matt Baker, a junior, and senior running back Josh Jenkins.
Receivers include junior Charles Johnson, senior Jalen Parson, and Marsalis Laushaw and Josh Murphy, both juniors. Senior Greg Clifton, who had a solid 2012 running the ball returns and will be a significant factor for the Huskies.
Tight ends include senior Peyton Holste and Jeff Gemmell, a junior. McGeorge said he plans to run a triple-option offense with multiple formations.
“We want to be well-balanced,” he said. “We want to be able to run when needed, and when we see we can’t run, we want to be able to throw successfully.” But whether his Huskies run or pass, McGeorge expects an explosive offensive.
“We have that potential,” he said. “We are faster than last season and we want to be able to control the game.” Defensively, there are more answers than questions as Heritage will be led by senior defensive back Charles Clark, defensive lineman Beze Uzoma and Holste, a middle linebacker.
“They’re the heart of our defense,” McGeorge said. “Charles is aggressive, fast and physical,” he added. “Beze is very strong and smart, and Peyton is solid.”
McGeorge is also expecting junior Tyler Crowther, a transfer middle linebacker to play a prominent role. “He led his team in tackles last season and is a solid addition to our team,” he said.
The Huskies had a productive summer, and McGeorge said all of his players have remained healthy. “We had great dedication during summer workouts,” he said. “The senior leadership came into play, and the players have challenged one another, which helps us as a team.”
Nonetheless, McGeorge knows the Cap 8 competition will be difficult from top to bottom. “There are a lot of good football players and coaches,” he said. “Each week will be a tremendous and different challenge that we’ll have to prepare for.”
The Huskies non-conference schedule is their most difficult to date, with games against Holly Springs, Panther Creek, Knightdale and East Wake. “It’s going to be a season of 11 challenging weeks,” he said, “but that’s what our players have worked hard for this summer.”