Knights aiming to build on last season
The Stratford Knights will be looking to continue their upturn in 2012.
Stratford advanced to the Class AAAA Div. II quarterfinals and won nine games last season, it’s best performance on the gridiron since winning 11 games and playing in the state semifinals in 2006.
SHS begins the season Aug. 24 at county rival Berkeley.
The Knights have three-year starter Jacob Park returning at quarterback and a solid assortment of skill players.
On defense, they have enough cornerstones coming back too.
“There are some critical components that have to come through for a good football team,” said SHS coach Ray Stackley, who begins his 29th season with the Knights. “We’ve just got to keep working to find the guys that can solidify our team.”
Last season as a sophomore, Park passed for 1,176 yards and seven touchdowns and also added some clutch yards for the Knights with his legs. He’s tall and has a strong arm, and is also mobile.
Running backs Noah Shuler and Jamar Stevens also return after combining for over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. Shuler had 602 yards and four scores, while Stevens had 526 yards and five touchdowns.
Jordan Johnson also figures into the mix in the backfield.
Leading receiver Chris White is back to lead a group that includes K.J. Givens and Chris German. White made 34 catches last fall.
“Skill-position wise I feel pretty good,” Stackley said.
The offensive front is largely unknown and their development will be crucial to Stratford’s success, Stackley said.
“I think we run the ball pretty good inside,” he added. “Pass protection is a big key. The offensive line’s performance is going to let us know if we’re going to be able to do what we want to do.”
That group includes DaMontae Johnson, William Flake, Brandon Hamilton, Daiquan Young and Michael Hughes. All but Hughes, a sophomore, are seniors. The group is more mobile than powerful.
The tight ends are Daniel Carter and Chris Allen.
On defense, Stratford brings back three of its top tacklers from 2011. Noseguard Shawn Peace powers the way up front. He made 99 stops as a junior.
Junior linebacker Cecil Smith made 84 total tackles last season. He moves from outside to inside linebacker this fall.
Defensive lineman Lucas Mayck, a senior, made 64 stops and 10 tackles for loss as a junior.
Mazyck and Peace will be joined up front by junior Steven Hill and senior Symere McLeod. Senior Thomas Newell provides depth on the line.
Senior Karl Bennett joins Smith at inside linebacker while physical junior Michael Simmons and T.J. Simmons are on the outside.
Simmons plays more strong safety.
Senior Gerald Bonnett and junior Sheldon Reid are at cornerback, while junior Tayor Morrison and sophomore Tyreik Faulks play free safety.
Senior Blake Gregorich gives the Knights good depth in the secondary.
“There are still some hotly-contested positions,” Stackley said. “We’ve got guys really fighting for jobs at a couple different positions.”
On special teams, sophomore Tyler Tekac is set to handle kicking duties, along with punter Griffin Martin.