Coming off of possibly their best season ever, the Catawba County Hornets are aiming to add more history and success in 2013.
Led by a shutdown defense, the Hornets ended their 2012 campaign with an 11-3 record.
The team made it to the Florida Bowl in Deltona, Fla. and faced off against the Orlando Rage.
Despite their 11 wins, the Hornets lost in two of their most important games last year — the Central Carolinas Football League (CCFL) championship game against the Carolina Renegades (35-8) and against the Rage (28-24).
“We had two chances to win a championship last year,” said Hornets linebacker Booker Jones. “We slipped up on both of them. This year, we want that ring. Nothing less than a ring. The good thing about it is everyone feels the same way.”
Catawba County has made several new additions to its roster, including wide receivers Dustin Metts and Donald Brown.
Both players will try to factor into the team’s new offensive scheme this year.
“(Dustin) is a tall receiver that has good hands and decent speed,” Frye said. “He helps out our spread offense that we want to use. We can utilize all four of our receivers on the field. (Donald) has played some Canadian ball. That’s a plus for us, too.”
The team also made improvemenets to both of its lines, including 270-pound offensive tackle Kasey Carlineo and 280-pound defensive lineman Chavis Floyd.
“Kasey has helped us on out the O-line to make it more secure,” Frye said. “Chavis is strong, quick and likes to play ball.”
Making the switch from offense to defense is Aaron Rainey, who will serve as the Hornets running back this season.
Rainey had 10 carries for 220 yards and four touchdowns during the team’s preseason.
“Last year, we ran Aaron on defense, but this year, he is our running back,” Frye said. “He has helped our running game.”
Catawba County even improved its special teams.
Quarterback Brandon Streater will remain on the field for extra points and may even attempt field gals, if needed.
“We’ve added Brandon for our kicking game, which we wished we had all of last year,” Frye said. “We’ve got it this year. In the two games we’ve played, he has made four of his six attempts. We luckily haven’t had to go for a field goal in the two games we’ve played.”
This year, the CCFL, which the Hornets have played in since its inception in 2006, underwent some major changes.
The Morganton Bobcats and five other teams left the CCFL.
In its place, the league picked up five new teams, including the Carolina Colts (Charlotte), Carolina Hawks (Fayetteville), Triangle Nighthawks (Raleigh) and Upstate Vikings (Spartanburg, S.C.).
The only returning teams to the league this year are the Hornets and the Carolina Heat, out of Greensboro.
Hornets free safety and wideout Chris Spikes said not having a knowledge of the competition will be the biggest hurdle he and his teammates will have to overcome.
“I think it’ll be a challenge because we have some unfamiliar teams,” said Spikes, who played football at Shelby High. “It’ll be good for us both. We play them more them once. When we play them the first time, we need to try to make a few adjustments and change some things up the second time. I think it is going to make for a good conference.”
Hornets wide receiver Centrail Williamson, a Bunker Hill High product, said the change in schedule will be different.
“It’s an adjustment,” Williamson said. “Every game is different. You’ve just got to play according to the team. What they give you, you’’ve got to take it one step at a time and one team at a time.”
Despite the changes, defender Christopher Ferguson said the team’s mindset has remained the same.
“There really aren’t any goals from last year to this year that have changed for the team,” Ferguson said. “Everyone is on the same page. Hopefully, the whole season goes good, and we go back to Nationals again.”
The Hornets had 30 players show up for practice on Wednesday — the most in recent memory.
Defensive lineman Jarrod Holmes said the increase in participation drives himself and his teammates to work harder.
“It really motivates us,” Holmes said. “That let’s us know that no spot is guaranteed. There is always someone behind you trying to work to get your spot. Last year, it wasn’t like that. Guys didn’t show up at practice. On game day, they came and played. This year, if guys don’t show up, they get replaced. You’ve got to step your game up.”
Catawba County opens up its season Saturday in Gaffney, S.C. against the Vikings. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.