When Rocky Mount Academy breaks the offensive huddle this season, senior center Nicholas Place will be able to look to his left or his right and see a familiar face.
Granted, when he turns around to look at Rocky Mount Academy’s fullback, he won’t see the Eagles’ former starter, Adam Bayless.
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But with fellow seniors Eric Robertson and Cameron Graham on Place’s flanks, there’s reason to believe that the Eagles will be able to repeat their playoffs appearance this year – even without Bayless.
“I think it’s big, especially with the chemistry you have to have up front and the communication,” Place said. “I think it makes a big difference.”
It makes such a difference that second-year coach B.W. Holt has raised the bar.
“The goal is to win (the championship),” Holt said.
Rocky Mount Academy, which won four games last year but lost twice by one point, will play a small handful of NCISAA 2-A state title contenders this year.
The Eagles will travel to Southampton Academy and Hobgood Academy, but the defending state champion, Raleigh Word of God, will play at Rocky Mount Academy in Week 5.
Holt believes the Eagles will compete with the cream of the crop in 2-A.
“We’re not bad,” Holt said with a smile. “With a little luck and a break here and there, and we have to stay healthy, we’ll compete.”
The numbers are increasing, too.
Just two years after barely having a dozen players on the varsity roster, Rocky Mount Academy had more than 30 players practicing in early summer camp, and the majority of them have played in Holt’s system before.
“Everybody is putting in a lot of effort this summer with the workouts,” Place said. “The good turnout, the increased numbers this year – even though it’s not that big of an increase over last year – I think we’ve got some quality numbers this year.”
With a talented, experience line and every starter back except for Bayless, Holt has a reason to believe that his second year with the Eagles will be similar to his better years with Rocky Mount High.
Chris Jenkins, Kyle Holland, Kasey Royster, Linwood Jones and Jacob Hunter all return.
All of those players carried the ball last season, some with greater consistency than others.
“I think we’ll be able to pick it up,” Place said. “It’s always hard to replace someone like Adam (Bayless), but I think we’ve got a bunch of really good backs. I think we’ll be alright.”
With those three senior offensive linemen up front and returning ball carriers, who all understand Holt’s unique eight-man offense, Rocky Mount Academy has a chance for a deep playoffs run.
“When we’ve been good, we’ve always had big people up front,” Holt said.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com