Swamp Foxes are putting the pieces together
As the season nears, the Ashley Ridge football team remains a work in progress, but things are coming together for the Swamp Foxes.
Ashley Ridge lost several key starters to graduation, but the team does have a foundation on which to build.
“We have some pieces to the puzzle, but we still have some spots to fill in,” Swamp Fox coach Kenny Walker said. “We have some concerns, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Walker has found his four corner pieces and is steadily building inward in hopes of completing the puzzle.
The first corner piece is the team’s receiving corps.
“Offensively when you lose players like Romelo Doctor, Vernon Moree and Jacob Thompson, the concern is where are you going to get your yardage,” Walker said. “Our group of wide receivers this year is probably the best group we have ever had. They are very talented and we expect them to make a big splash.”
The leader of the group is senior Donavan Thompson. A returning starter, he will line up mostly inside and will spend some time in the backfield.
“He is one of our better offensive players, someone other teams had better prepare for,” Walker said.
Matt Linton and Charles Fredrick are other inside receivers likely to see a lot of action. Dashaun Santiago will line up outside to help the Foxes stretch the field. DeAngelo Shaw and Mitch Nixon are also expected to vie for playing time at the position. They are all juniors except Shaw, who is a senior.
The second corner piece is returning senior Sean White. A three-year letterman, White will be used as a kick returner, receiver and running back, the position most affected by graduation.
“Sean White is our big play guy,” Walker said. “We will use him in a number of different ways.”
Junior Tyler Garland and sophomore C.J. Crosby are also expected to get a lot of touches from the running back position.
“We have more physical runners this year instead of the slash and dash type we had in Romelo,” Walker said. “We aren’t expecting them to break off 70-yard runs, but we think they can do what we need them to do which is gain five or six yards and block.”
After serving as backups at the position last season, juniors David Turner and Chandler Avenel are competing for the starting quarterback role. Whoever gets the job will have some experienced linemen protecting them.
“Our offensive line should be pretty decent,” Walker said. “We have all the guys back who started up front in last year’s playoff game at Gaffney and we were able to run the ball pretty well that game. We have several guys we feel comfortable with and we think we can move most of them around to different positions but after that we need to develop some depth.”
Center Jonathan Byrd, guards Tyler Moss and Keith Clark and tackles Kenny Glover and Devin Parker return up front. Seniors Steven Truelove and Jacocb Bonar weren’t with the Foxes last season, but are experienced linemen.
Helping them up front will be sophomore tight ends Brandon Brown and Justin Peterson. “They are pretty athletic so we feel they can pose a problem for teams,” Walker said.
The third corner piece to the puzzle is senior free safety Kendall Felder, a three-year varsity letterman.
“Kendall is the quarterback of our defense,” Walker said. “He knows all the calls and knows where everyone is supposed to be. Our defense needs players who can make adjustments on the fly and he is one of those players who can.”
The fourth corner piece is senior defensive end Kadarius Anderson, who has been with the AR varsity since his freshman year.
“He provides good leadership for us up front,” Walker said.
Josh Spigner returns as a starting tackle and fellow senior Thomas Cooper also brings experience to the defensive line. He is slated to start at the other defensive end position.
Senior Tyler Moore and junior Dylan Mariucci return to anchor the Foxes’ linebacker corps. Brown and Cosby will play both sides of the ball to help strengthen the linebacker position.
The Foxes lost their kicker to graduation, so this season Ashton Hughes and Matt Gable will handle the kicking and punting. Brad McLaughlin, Tanner Price and Peterson are the team’s long snappers.
“We have spent a lot of time on special teams trying to make them more solid,” Walker said. “I think it will pay off.”