Patriots stand to be strong up front
The Patriots should be strong in the trenches this season, but they will open their campaign with some largely untested skill-position players.
“We lost some guys in the secondary and on offense we lost all our skill guys,” Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad said. “Our question mark going into the season is our skill positions.”
The team has experience everywhere else.
“We feel like our strength is our front seven on defense,” LaPrad said. “They are all juniors who played last year. Up front offensively we feel like we could possibly be as good as we have ever been. We have three linemen back who started every game last year plus another who played quite a bit.”
The Patriots finished last season with a 5-6 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since LaPrad took over. However, several of the losses came in tight games so LaPrad is optimistic about the new season.
“All the starters who were so young last season are a year older and a year wiser,” he said.
Myles White, Eurndraus Bryant and Eugene March all return to the defensive line. White and Bryant are both D-1 prospects. Bryant dropped 45 pounds over the summer so LaPrad is expecting him to be a true force.
“Bryant will be a big key for us and we hope to play him on both sides of the ball,” LaPrad said. “When he is full speed and not tired, he is unblockable but he was too large last year so he ran out of gas at times. He and Kevyne Flores pretty much bottle up the middle for us.”
Flores is one of four linebackers returning to the team with starting experience. He and fellow senior David Govan started there the past two seasons. Senior Ryan Chaya and junior Daniel Finley are also returning starters. Finley missed the last half of the season due to a leg injury.
Juniors Wanyae Fludd and Trent Barnes, both transfer students, should add good depth to the defensive front.
The only member of the Patriot secondary with much varsity experience is senior Deonta Morris. He and senior Cato Jenkins are the projected starters at cornerback. Juniors Jerod Lacy and Adrian McNeil will likely start at the safety positions.
“We will be young in the back, but we have put a lot of our efforts into helping those guys improve,” LaPrad said.
The Fort returns four starters to the offensive line.
Junior Cody Meree returns at center. Senior Nick Tononi returns at right guard. Senior Tyese McDonald returns at tackle. Senior Brian Sanders was moved to defensive end last season but he returns to the offensive guard position this year.
Jordan Horne, a senior transfer from Florida, will likely play the tackle position opposite of McDonald.
“They have all been in the fire,” LaPrad said. “Horne played on a state championship 6-A team in Tallahassee so he should really help. Depth is a concern on the offensive line but we have some defensive linemen who can also block. In fact, a lot of our second string on both sides of the ball will be from players going two ways.”
The Patriots’ quarterback, two leading rushers and leading receiver from last season graduated in May. However, the team does have some skill players with varsity experience as well as some promising younger skill guys.
“Matt Murray started in front of our other running backs last year before he tore his ACL so we feel pretty good about our ability to run the ball,” LaPrad said. “We also have a few receivers who played a good bit.”
Murray has earned the starting running back spot and transfer student Nahshon Cyrus, a senior, will also likely spend a lot of time in the offensive backfield. Sophomore Datron James has also shown great promise at the position.
Senior receiver D’Monte Bailey returns after finishing last season as the Patriots second-leading receiver. He made 15 receptions last year for 267 yards. Seniors Rashad Palmer and Corey Rawlings are also back after seeing considerable action as receivers. Both are versatile athletes who may line up at multiple positions. Newcomer Diondre Champaigne adds depth to the receiver corps.
The Patriots worked out three quarterbacks in the preseason. Junior Kobe Garrett is the projected starter but Rawlings and senior Colt Davis have both shown promise at the position the past two seasons.
Rawlings is the team’s punter and sophomore Riley Rozanski will likely handle the placekicking.