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Heritage looks to build upon best season in school history

Wake Forest vs. Heritage (Friday, Oct. 14, 2016)

Aug, 3 2017, 6:28 PM

Heritage’s football team won 11 games for the first time in school history last season, but the Huskies fell to the eventual state champion Wake Forest in the third round of the postseason.

This season, it’s state title or bust for the Huskies.

“My expectation for this year is going to be high,” said senior running back Ricky Person. “It’s my senior year, and I expect the most out of our seniors. We’re trying to come back and give something to Heritage that its never had before, which is a state championship.”

Person said he frequently ponders about the Huskies’ loss to Wake Forest in the state playoffs. Heritage held a 14-7 lead at halftime but was outscored 28-6 in the second half.

“Every night we dream about that loss to Wake Forest; we gave up a big lead to them last year,” Person said. “It was unexpected. We gave up when we never should have. We should’ve kept our foot on the gas.

“This year, we’re working like it’s all in the back of our head, what happened last year. We’re just trying to be better than what we were, working hard every day.”

Heritage will be led by a trove of Division I prospects, including quarterback Gunnar Holmberg, defensive end Joseph Boletepeli, linebacker Drake Thomas, defensive tackle Joe Kane and Person.

Holmberg, Kane and Person have all pledged their college commitments to Atlantic Coast Conference programs — Duke, Virginia Tech and NC State, respectively — but Boletepeli and Thomas still remain undecided.

The Huskies did lose a key piece on the offensive side of the ball due to graduation, Thayer Thomas, who is a preferred walk on this season at NC State.

Thomas was responsible for 1,002 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns last season. He led the Huskies with 73 catches for 965 receiving yards.

Not only Thomas, but two other players with at least 500 yards receiving also graduated — Jalen Pittman and Zach Gemmell.

Pittman and Gemmell combined for 82 catches, 1,197 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

But despite the overhaul at the receiver position, Heritage head coach Dewayne Washington said the team will keep its offensive scheme relatively similar and is expecting the receivers on the roster to be ready from the get-go.

“Not too many changes,” Washington said. “The wide receivers, they have to step up and play.”

Heritage joins the newly formed 4A Northern Conference this season, along with Corinth Holders, Knightdale and Rolesville, and former Cap 8 foes Wake Forest and Wakefield.

Although the Huskies are looked upon as one of the favorites to win the conference — along with Wake Forest — Washington said the team should not overlook any of the competition.

“We don’t take anyone for granted, and I’m sure they [Wake Forest] don’t either,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough depending on who we’re playing,. We’re doing our best to get ready for each and every Friday.”

Heritage will have to wait until the last week of the regular season to get a shot at redemption against Wake Forest, but Washington’s goal is to have the players focus on the task at hand each week, rather than looking forward.

“Last year is over; we’re trying to get our kids to have a ‘right-now’ mentality,” Washington said. “It’s all about what we’re doing each and every day to get better. If we were to see Wake Forest, or whomever in the playoffs, then we have to be ready to play."

Five of the Huskies' first six opponents were playoff teams in 2016 — Panther Creek, Middle Creek, Millbrook, Sanderson and Holly Springs. Heritage will open its first conference tilt on Oct. 6 against Corinth Holders in Wendell.

Heritage begins its quest for a title on Aug. 18 in its season opener against Panther Creek.

web_editor : Jon Stout