CARY — Its a season of change for Cary Christians eight-man football program.
Rich Wharton, who coached the Knights JV squad before becoming a varsity assistant last season, is the teams new head coach.
Austin Hellman, the second-leading rusher last season, is the lone returning starter on offense.
Twelve seniors graduated. A new offense will be installed.
But Wharton has confidence entering this season, which begins Friday at home against Hobgood Academy. The Knights have a strong group of athletes returning to fill the holes.
Its a rebuilding year, but I dont look at it that way. I think were going to have a very strong team, Wharton said. Were inexperienced, but theyve responded well to our practices.
The new offense will feature more of a rushing attack. Five players, including Hellman, will see time in the backfield. Were real strong in the backfield, Wharton said. I feel comfortable with putting any of those five players in and being able to run the ball.
While the rest of the offensive unit learns the new offense, a few modifications are being made on defense, Wharton said.
Three-year starter Chris Thomas returns at defensive end; Thomas was the MVP for the defense. Zach Wharton, a junior, is a two-year starter who returns at defensive tackle after leading the team in sacks last year.
Hellman will also play linebacker, where he has started three years.
Weve been really focused on getting these guys up to speed on how to play their position effectively, coach Wharton said.
Cary Christian is in its eighth year of eight-man football.
With construction of new lights, last year was the first season Cary Christian played home games at night. This year, a new field house overlooks the field. It houses locker rooms and concessions to help the game-day experience for players and fans alike, and also holds a classroom and a weight room.
Its all a part of how Cary Christian continues to grow its football program, something Wharton has seen on the field. There are more guys who see this as their primary sport, which we havent seen in the past. Were building a tradition of football here, Wharton said.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps