Ashley Ridge opens its 2014 season with a rare game against a Class AA opponent.
The Swamp Foxes host Woodland at 7:30 p.m. Friday. While the Wolverines compete in a smaller classification, Ashley Ridge coach Kenny Walker says he isn’t underestimating Woodland.
“They are physical on both sides of the ball,” Walker said. “Their quarterback is very mobile so we will have to be disciplined in our rush lanes. They have a running back that is fast and physical and their receivers are very athletic and can go get the ball.”
Woodland has seven returning starters on offense.
Florida State commit Michael Barnett Jr. is one of three linemen returning. They will block for returning quarterback Drake Knight and returning running back Brandon Smith. Both rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and Knight also threw for more than 1,000 yards.
The Wolverines also return a pair of experienced receivers.
Barnett plays both sides of the ball and many feel he is most dangerous when he is on the defensive line.
“Defensively they swarm to the football and do not get out of position much,” Walker said. “Everyone knows about their defensive end and he is as advertised. He is very disciplined and can get to the ball quickly.”
Other defensive returners for the Wolverines include linebacker Travon Shannon, one of the team’s tackling leaders, and defensive back T.J. Wilson, who made several interceptions last season.
Woodland only lost two games last season, one to Bishop England and another to Silver Bluff in the third round of the playoffs. Silver Bluff went on to claim the Lower State Championship for Class AA, Division 2.
Ashley Ridge is coming off a disappointing 4-8 season. However, the Swamp Foxes return eight starters on offense and have added one of the top passers in the area to their roster.
Steven Duncan transferred to Ashley Ridge after throwing for more than 3,000 yards last season with Porter-Gaud and he has a promising group of receivers to throw to. The Swamp Foxes offensive line returns pretty much intact and AR has a 1,000-yard rusher in Tyler Garland.
Ashley Ridge doesn’t have as much experience on defense, but it does have some talent on that side of the ball.
The team’s linebacker corps is poised to have a good season and the Swamp Foxes return a pair of experienced cornerbacks.