The season is a few days from starting but the social media talk has been in full swing for months.
Ever since Rocky Mount Academy surprised the NCISAA football landscape last November by winning the 2013 state championship, Eagles players have turned to their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages and noticed that a lot of players from other schools want to reach their status.
“We have a target on our back,” Eagles senior quarterback Brice Andracchio said. “They say, ‘We’re coming for y’all.’ We say, ‘No way, it’s ours.’ There’s a lot of ring-chasing talk. Everyone knows who we are right now. We’re on top. We’re trying to stay on top.”
Championship talk doesn’t seem to be a one-and-done scenario in coach B.W. Holt’s third season at Rocky Mount Academy.
The Eagles return more than a handful of defensive players who started at least half of the team’s games last season.
Andracchio returns under center, and the program’s best playmaker, junior running back Jacob Hunter, is coming off a summer in which he competed with some of the better athletes in the country at various combines.
With all the positives going for the Eagles, they aren’t just talking about repeating.
Others are taking notice of their posture and attitudes.
“I had a man who attends our practices tell me that they seem to be more vocal and spirited,” said Holt, who won his first state title last season after amassing more than 300 career victories. “The biggest problem is they have a big target on their backs now. We have a chance (to repeat). We’re going to have to play every Friday night.”
The preseason has given the Eagles confidence. In a recent jamboree that included a number of 1-A, 11-man football schools, Holt’s squad performed well, and that was without Hunter, who has been recovering from a hamstring injury.
“We competed really well,” Holt said. “We have a chance to line up against good size and speed.”
That’s something an Eagles team could not have said two years ago when Holt took over the program.
While the program would like to have even more student-athletes join – there are approximately 35-40 athletes between the junior varsity and varsity teams – Holt said the Eagles are in position this year to pencil in 16 different names for the starting spots on offense and defense.
There aren’t many eight-man teams that are afforded such a luxury.
No matter who is on the field for the Eagles, it doesn’t seem like there is a sense of complacency.
“We have to make sure we’re still chasing it,” Andracchio said. “We have to stay hungry and make sure we’re playing to win every single night and not to lose. If we stay hungry, I think we can do it.”
All it would take is an inbox message to ignite the fire.
“People counted us out last year,” Hunter said. “Honestly, we didn’t expect to get that far. We got there, and to win it was pretty big. People are still talking about it now. It was a big thing.”
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org