N.C. Central football coach Mose Rison came up with a bit of a surprise when he spoke with the media on “Meet the Eagles” day.

“I’m really happy with our special teams,” said Rison, whose team opens its season on Sept. 5 on the road against MEAC power Hampton. “The good news is that most of the kids are back. My biggest concern was replacing Brandon Gilbert (the best placekicker in school history who at points in his career also handled punting duties.”

Rison said he has found Gilbert’s replacement in true freshman Frankie Cardelle out of Salisbury High, who will handle the punting duties.

Earlier in the week Rison, who also serves as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, named sophomore Michael Johnson, the transfer from Tulsa out of Hillside High, as the starting signal-caller for the Hampton game. Johnson, who played in four games last season, completed 32 of 62 passes for 517 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions.

“I had to compete hard with Keon (Williams) every day in practice,” Johnson said. “Make a mistake, and Keon will come back and make you look bad.”

Johnson said, though, that he doesn’t see the offense as the team’s strongest suit at the moment.

“The strength of our team is going to be the defense,” he said. “They’re going lights out and full speed.”

Junior linebacker Donald Laster, the Eagles’ defensive captain, said having nine starters back on that side of the ball instead of the one his team had last season is making a big difference.

“You can see it in practice,” Laster said. “If the offense has a big run, we can come right back and get a sack.”