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'CATS KICK IT OFF

BUNN -- When the Bunn Wildcats needed some expert training advice for new kicker Justin Guzman, only one phone call was necessary.

Former Wildcat superstar Freeman Jones was happy to help out before he headed to Chapel Hill to begin his senior season as the starting placekicker for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Within minutes under Jones' tutelage, Guzman went from delivering kickoff knuckeballs down the field -- just a few yards off the ground -- to booming high, respectable efforts that were worthy of regular season game attempts.

Such is life within the Bunn football program, where ex-players are more than happy to return and share their well-honed skills.

"When guys like Freeman return, it shows that the Bunn community is tight-knit,'' said BHS first-year head coach Dale Murphy. "When guys leave, they want to come back and help the kids of the future.

"It is definitely an asset. And our guys can look at a guy like Freeman and can see that he went from her to play somewhere like UNC. It shows them they can have an opportunity to play at the next level, whether it be Division I, II, III or in junior college.''

Murphy's club returns just nine starters from a group that took second place last fall in the Northern Carolina Conference.

But while some positions are currently up for grabs or will be manned by younger players, one spot filled with experience is at quarterback.

That's where junior Cody Collier will return after excelling last fall as a 10th-grade starter.

"It really helps to have Cody back,'' Murphy said. "He now has two years of experience -- one on JV and the other on varsity.

"You can tell he has worked hard in the off-season, both in the weight room and on the field. He is comfortable behind center and he knows where his teammates are supposed to be. He is our leader on offense.''

While Collier's excellence is a given, there are still some questions on Bunn's depth charter that will need to be answered before the Wildcats' regular season opener on August 17 at North Lenoir.

Murphy and Company are still in the process of developing offensive and defensive lines, and there are still plenty of skill-position opportunities for some energetic newcomers.

One solid intangible for Murphy is that he is extremely familiar with Bunn's younger players from his former role as the head coach at Bunn Middle School.

"What I have seen so far is a very good work ethic,'' Murphy said. "The guys bring discipline to the field every day. When they make a mistake, they know it and quickly move on.

"They have short memories, which is good.''

Bunn will take part in a scrimmage at Rocky Mount on August 8 at 6 p.m. before competing in the annual Vance County Jamboree on Aug. 11 at 9 a.m. at Vance County High School (on the former campus of Southern Vance HS).

Pictured (Above): BACK IN TOWN. Bunn High School legend Freeman Jones returned to his alma mater Tuesday to help new BHS kicker Justin Guzman with some techniques. Jones is now a senior starting placekicker for the UNC Tar Heels. (Times photos by Geoff Neville)


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