Leading the way is what has to be one of the best defensive lines in high school football. The Bulldogs, who utilize a 3-5 front, return Brian Slay, who committed to NC State this week, and Zach Thompson, the coach's son and a talented prospect who owns offers from NC State, Virginia, Maryland, Syracuse, and West Virginia.
On the inside, coach Thompson can mix in 6-foot-1, 300-pounder David Wang, a Virginia Tech verbal. All three players have the versatility and ability to make plays for the Bulldogs... but not just defensively.
"We start Brian and Zach in our 3-5 scheme and we play David over there as well," said coach Thompson. "He alternates over from offense, and Brian and Zach played some offense too. They played tight end and tackle, but this year they will both play some tight end for us."
Stone Bridge must replace Jeron Gouveia, their starting safety, who inked with Virginia Tech, but teams aren't able to do much either way with the Bulldog front.
On its way to a 14-1 record and the state championship, Stone Bridge won games because of its defense, and Brian Slay was a major factor.
Slay played his first season at Stone Bridge after transferring in from Harrison (GA) Kennesaw High School where he totaled 88 tackles and 10 sacks as a sophomore. After arriving at Stone Bridge, he gave his new head coach a highlight tape of him in action.
"He was good on the highlight tape I saw, but he's even better after seeing him play everyday and working with him," said Thompson. "Honestly, I think he's a game-changer on the defensive line. He runs stuff down from the backside, forces fumbles, applies pressure... he's just a big, quick athlete.
"The thing with Brian is he's right around 6'2 or 6'3 and 275 pounds but he has great athleticism for a guy his size. The biggest thing for him is he's now in a solid weight program as he's working out daily in our weight class and he'll be even bigger and stronger next year."
Playing defensive end for the Bulldogs, Slay tallied 65 tackles and six sacks. Because of his size, Slay might eventually project as a defensive tackle, but his head coach feels that athletically he would be able to impact at defensive end.
"I'm sort of biased because I see him everyday, but I think he has great athleticism for a guy that size and he could be an edge-type player... he can play on the end, but with his physical attributes and ability, he could turn into whatever you're looking for. He will be able to play whatever the coaches want him to play."
Over the years Stone Bridge has produced quality Division I recruits. A few years back star tight end Ed Wang verbaled to Virginia Tech and is now one of their top offensive linemen. In 2006, linebacker Andrew Holloman inked with Duke. Just last year offensive lineman Andrew Nuss signed with Notre Dame and defensive back Devon Brown decided to head to Wake Forest. Gouveia signed with Virginia Tech this year, and Stone Bridge could have as many as six players sign Division I scholarships in the 2009 class.
Slay, Thompson, and Wang have already garnered high major scholarship offers, and fellow juniors Patrick Thompson, Daniel Allen and Mike Olson are receiving heavy recruiting attention. Coach Thompson has been extremely busy distributing film to various colleges. What feedback has he received on Slay after sending his game film to schools?
"We have six or seven guys on our team that are receiving attention," said coach Thompson. "I'm sending out five or six game packages to various schools, and the first name mentioned is always Brian. I think with as good a crew as we have here, that says a lot.
"It's all the attributes I've mentioned to you before... his physical ability and the way he can move on the corner. He's ran down some extremely quick backs and just made plays for us."
Slay landed an offer from NC State earlier this year and had been receiving major attention from several other programs with offers sure to follow. However, coach Thompson wasn't surprised that he decided to end his recruitment early.
"He is really excited about NC State and about giving them a commitment," Thompson said. "He really likes coach Willis... I think that was a big thing for him, to be recruited by the guy you're going to play for is a pretty big deal. Coach Willis does a great job for them. He was at Boston College with the staff and he came through here then. I'm probably a little biased towards him because I'm a line coach too.
"Brian felt like there may be schools out there that are good, but NC State put their faith in him first. Also, I think the fact that he's from Georgia and NC State is sort of halfway between Georgia and here will make it easy for his family on both ends to be able to go see him play."
Now Willis and NC State will be looking to get Slay's teammate, Zach Thompson, to join him in Raleigh. Coach Thompson stated that his son has yet to really start his recruiting process but with offers already on the table he will began to visit schools in the near future. The plan is to have a decision before the season starts.
"We've never really had a kid take their recruitment into our season," said coach Thompson. "I know I prefer to have the recruitments completed before our season starts and that is the plan for Zach.
"He's not really interested in all these star ratings and combines... he doesn't care about that stuff. He will be looking for the best school for him so we're going to get out and visit colleges and that will allow him to find where he feels he fits the best.
"I know we're heading down to NC State on [March] 20th to watch one of their spring practices."