According to Butler High football coach Brian Hales, his Bulldogs have found a new sense of motivation for the 2018 season.
Hales got 15 starters back from an 8-3 team that lost in the first round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs to Southwestern 4A conference rival Myers Park. That was Butler’s worst season since 2004, when it won seven games.
It wasn’t a typical Butler season.
“I think,” Hales said at practice last week, “that we’re ready to bounce back.”
Perhaps no player on his roster signifies Butler’s theme of motivation quite as much as linebacker Brandon Masone.
A 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior, Masone carries a 4.375 average. And here’s what his schedule looks like this fall: AP (advanced placement) Human Geography, AP Calculus, Honors Physics, AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics and elite strength training.
“He’s so self-motivated,” Hales said. “He’s always working, whether he’s studying extra or in the weight room. He’s always trying to improve.”
Masone’s older brother, Alex, played for Butler from 2012-15. Alex is now a computer engineering major at N.C. State. Growing up, Brandon came to a lot of Bulldogs football games, and he knows Butler’s history: 3-8 in the school’s first year in 1997, 216-53 since then.
Butler has only had one losing season.
“I always looked up to these guys,” Masone said. “I first came here, I was 12, 13 years old. I thought they were a bunch of beasts. I was in shock. I couldn’t wait to get here.”
Masone had 115 tackles last season and is one of 15 starters coming back, hungry to prove that last season was an aberration.
And Butler has plenty of weapons — including quarterback Christian Peters, receiver Keyone Lesane, an N.C. State commit, and tailback Jamal Worthy — to make a playoff run.
In fact, the Bulldogs are planning on it.
“I see the same potential everybody else does,” Hales said of his team. “Now it’s time to find out who our leaders are going to be and everybody finding their roles. Nobody has to be the best player in the world, but be the best player they can be.”
That includes Masone, who can’t wait for his senior season to get started.
“We’re expecting great things from this team,” he said. “A state championship is the goal, as always, and we’ve been working really hard, day-in and day-out. We were really disappointed we couldn’t execute and finish (last season) and we’re looking to do better.”
Editor’s Note: The Observer is previewing all 16 teams in its preseason Sweet 16 poll. The order will be revealed before the season kicks off Aug. 15.
Head Coach: Brian Hales (8th year, 75-16).
2017 Record: 8-3 (6-1 in the Southwestern 4A conference).
2018 Conference: Southwestern 4A conference.
Outlook: With 15 starters back, Butler is again the favorite in the Southwestern 4A conference. The Bulldogs will get a push from Myers Park and Indian Trail Porter Ridge. But Butler hopes a strong preseason schedule, which includes battles with 4A powers Scotland County and Mallard Creek, prepares them for a tough conference run.
Key Players: Keyon Lesane, Sr., WR/DB (6-0, 185); Christian Peters, Sr., QB (6-2, 175); Brandon Masone, Sr., LB (6-1, 200); Jamal Worthy, Jr., RB (6-2, 210); Anthony Carter, Jr., OL (6-2, 275); Tre Richburg, Jr., OL/DL (6-2, 260); Quasean Holmes, Jr., RB/LB (5-10, 190); Josh Barnette, Jr., WR (6-3, 180); Tyran Jones, Sr., DB (5-11, 180).