MORE SHOES TO FILL
School: Forsyth Central
Shoes to fill: Robbie Repasz
What to know: Ward finds himself in a familiar position. He was on this list last season, when he had to replace standout linebacker Victor Peppers. Ward did an admirable job, finishing making 54 tackles (34 solo) with four tackles for loss and two sacks. Now, he has to do it again, this time as he moves to safety to replace safety Robbie Repasz, arguably the team’s best defensive player last season.
School: Horizon Christian
Position: Running back
Shoes to fill: Dillon Taylor
What to know: Taylor played one year at Horizon, but he made it an impactful one as the Warriors’ top running back who could also be dangerous in the passing game. Horizon is turning to Kimbrough. He’s been primarily a defensive force for Horizon, but coaches tried him at running back in the spring and were pleasantly surprised with his speed and vision of the field. “He’s a natural runner,” Horizon head coach Charles Wiggins said.
Position: Offensive line
Shoes to fill: Sean Bailey
What to know: These could be literally the biggest shoes to fill – Bailey, an East Carolina signee, was 6-foot-6, 315 pounds. But he was also a three-year varsity starter who was a perfectionist. Warren is part of a completely retooled Lambert line this season, and Coach Louis Daniel says he shares many of the same traits as Bailey: quick first step, solid footwork and strong in the weight room. And he’s 6-foot-1, 300 pounds. “He’s an athlete in a big man’s body,” Daniel said.
School: Pinecrest Academy
Position: Right guard
Shoes to fill: Stone Brown
What to know: Mueller has the best situation he could ask for: the player he’s replacing will be right beside him. Brown was all-county and all-region at right guard last season as a freshman with 111 pancake blocks, second in the county. Brown moves to right tackle this season, so in steps the 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore at guard. Pinecrest head coach Todd Winter says Mueller is strong with great feet, and his confidence is growing every day. “He is not going to top off this year,” Winter said. “He’s going to get better and better every week.”
- Brian Paglia
Nobody threw for more yards last season in the county than West Forsyth, and it was thanks to a revolving door of talented receivers. First-year starter Kiernen Hamilton, who moved to Forsyth County from a small school in New York state, wasn’t used to having so much firepower around him—let alone in one position group.
But West’s four, or sometimes five-wide offense, worked seamlessly for much of the year. Two of the Wolverine pass catchers stood out the most: Austin Reid and Garrett Broxson.
Reid caught 40 passes for 743 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, earning FCN all-county first-team honors. Broxson made the second-team with 29 receptions, 500 yards and eight scores.
In the mix, though, was a sophomore you couldn’t miss. He was already well over 6-feet tall, had a mature build and demanded attention from the middle of the defense. With Reid and Broxson flying around on the outside, Ben Bresnahan became a big-time target as a third option.
Bresnahan had a breakout performance against South Forsyth, catching two touchdowns including the game-winner after a dramatic comeback. He finished the season third on the team in receptions with 31 for 389 yards and four touchdowns. Zach Burns, who was second on the team with 47 receptions, also returns.
But there’s good reason to put the spotlight on Bresnahan. While that revolving door of receivers had similar players, Bresnahan stands out as a potential big-time college prospect. He’s now 6-foot-5 and already has an offer from Wake Forest. As long as he stays healthy many more should come.
Bresnahan’s versatility will also be a big part of what West does on offense this season. Even though he’s listed as a wide receiver he’s already being recruited as a tight end, and West head coach Adam Clack plans on using that to the team’s advantage.
So when practice begins, Bresnahan spends the first half working with the receiving group. Halfway through, he switches to tight end along with teammate Thomas Arundale. They trade in running routes on the edge for blocking in the middle, as well as sneaky releases into the middle of the field.
“This year our coaching staff has really focused on giving guys two positions,” Bresnahan said. “For me, it’s great because I’m learning techniques of a tight end and a split end. I think overall it just helps my complete understanding of the offense.”
Another receiver in the group, Bryce Jones, has spent time with Bresnahan to clean up his route-running and make him a more dangerous receiver.
“Bryce has helped me a lot,” Bresnahan said. “I’m fast, but I’m not D-I wide receiver fast at all. So, with details like just running routes and ball skills there’s a lot to learn that can sharpen up who I am as a player.”
When asked if Bresnahan puts any pressure on himself to out-do Reid or Broxson he thinks back to the quarterback.
“Well, Kiernan had 29 touchdowns last year,” Bresnahan said. “We hope to get him more.”
On the other side of the ball is another Forsyth County player with big time expectations.
Out at defensive end for the South Forsyth War Eagles is Cameron Kline, now playing the same position at Harvard. Kline was the FCN’s Defensive Player of the Year last season after totaling 50 tackles, 15 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, four fumble recoveries, two defensive touchdowns and a blocked field goal.
Those are some huge shoes to fill; South head coach Jeff Arnette thinks Ryan LaFlamme is more than ready to take on the challenge.
In just his sophomore season LaFlamme made 37 total tackles—eight for a loss—and finished second on the team in sacks with five. Now the 6-foot-2, 230 pound end hopes to inflate those numbers as South’s primary pass rusher.
LaFlamme isn’t just playing in the shadow of Kline. He also plays in the shadow of his sibling, including South’s leading rusher two seasons ago in Tyler LaFlamme.
Ryan deflects the pressure.
“I don’t really think about living up to expectations or anything,” LaFlamme said. “Nobody really puts it on me, and because I play a different position than (Tyler), you know it’s different. I’m just worried about going out there and doing the best I can for my team.”
That doesn’t mean his coach doesn’t see his legacy in him.
“I think (Ryan) can be an all-region, all-county, all-state type player. He’s stronger than ever and with Cameron gone that opens the door for him to have a really big year,” Arnette said.
In Coal Mountain, a player who hopes to stop LaFlamme from getting to the quarterback on Oct. 21 is emerging as a leader of the North Forsyth Raiders.
Dakota Bryant is the lone senior on North’s offensive line and will line up at right tackle in place of one of North’s most iconic players from the past few seasons in Jackson Bardall. Bardall was a force on both sides of the trench during his career and earned a scholarship to play at Eastern Kentucky.
Bryant isn’t Bardall by any stretch, but in a new, more up-tempo offense head coach Robert Craft thinks he’s the perfect fit.
“The biggest thing with him is toughness. He’s a strong kid,” Craft said. “He’s battled some injuries over his career as well. But he’s just one guy you can really count on.
“In our offense we do ask a lot of our guys, probably more than they’re used to in pass protection and blitz pick-up. We tried to challenge all our lineman that they need to play both guard and tackle and be interchangeable. That comes from a lot of studying and homework and [Bryant] has worked really hard all summer. I’m excited to see what he’s got in store for us.”