Swamp Fox season likely hinges on development up front
The Swamp Fox football team is bigger and stronger than ever and still has impressive speed, but things aren’t exactly perfect.
“We have some question marks in areas,” Ashley Ridge coach Kenny Walker said. “We have big play potential in our skill positions but a major concern is if we will have enough time to get the ball to them. We have some experience on the offensive line but we have a lot of new guys there so it might take some time for them to come together and jell as a unit.”
After going 10-4 in 2011, a season which saw the team earn its first region championship and advance to the semi-finals of the Division II-AAAA playoffs, Ashley Ridge returns eight starters on offense and five on defense.
The heart and soul of this year’s team is its trio of speedy and crafty offensive backs, who are all seniors.
Romelo Doctor rushed for 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Joining him in the backfield will be Vernon Moree, who rushed for 800 yards and 10 TDs and made 31 receptions for 500 yards and five TDs. Quarterback Jacob Thompson will again call the plays after completing 106 of 157 pass attempts in 2011 for 1,718 yards and 16 TDs. Thompson also rushed for 675 yards and six TDs.
Providing leadership up front will be returning center Tyler Moss, tackle Brian Nix and tight end Fred Weeks. Guard Kennedy Whitely also has some varsity experience, but the team’s other linemen are largely untested.
The Foxes have to replace their all-time leading receiver since Seamus McKinney graduated. However, Mikey Goodwine and Donavon Thompson return a lot of experience to the team’s receiving corps.
“We are trying to fill that void,” Walker said. “I don’t know if we have a guy who is going to catch 70 something balls in a year, but we have two or three guys who can help with that. Romelo and Vernon are both very versatile so we can also line them up in a receiver spot.”
Zach Armstrong, the team’s fastest athlete, and Sean White will likely see more action as receivers this season.
The team also has some defensive voids to fill.
“We are looking to make some improvements on defense with our front seven, but we have an experienced group of linebackers and we are making strides technique-wise up front.” Walker said. “We aren’t the biggest group, but if we play fundamentally sound I think we can slow people down.”
Ends Kadarius Anderson and Malik Graham return to anchor a largely inexperienced defensive line. Josh Spigner, Jared Campagnone and former linebacker Joseph Pringle will also see a lot of action on the line.
Tray Cutler is a seasoned player returning to lead the Swamp Fox linebackers. While the other linebackers don’t have his experience, most of them have seen varsity action. Joining Cutler at the position are Jackson Plyler, Monquez Whaley and Matt Alewine.
In the secondary cornerback Antonio McCall and strong safety Will Runyon both return. Armstrong and sophomore Trequan Jenkins will split time at the other corner and Tyquan Tucker and Kendall Felder are battling for the starting free safety position.
Cameron Smith is the frontrunner to do most of the kicking this season. Moree, Armstrong and White are all experienced and sure-handed kick returners.
Ashley Ridge now has more than 2,000 students, which has of course benefitted the football team. Two years ago the Foxes only had six players who weighed over 200 pounds. This year, the team has more than 20.
“That helps when you face these teams that want to ground and pound you all night,” Walker said. “You can put some of your beef in there to maybe weather the storm a little easier. And we have depth in certain position groups that we have never had. We can rotate people in and not lose a whole lot.”
Contact Roger Lee @ 873-9424 ext. 213 or firstname.lastname@example.org