DUBLIN — Excitement might best be described in two forms for West Bladen High’s football team.
Second-year head coach Kris Williams sees potential in the youthful core of his squad. But with that age also comes concerns; perhaps a bit more nervous excitement.
“We’ve got some talented kids coming back offensively,” he said. “We’re going to see how that translates as we continue to grow here. Defensively, we plan to improve from what we did last year.”
The Knights host South Brunswick next Friday to begin 11 games in 11 weeks, seeking improvement on a 4-7 campaign that included just one win away from home and two in the 10-team Three Rivers Conference.
West Bladen’s wing-T is expected to increase use of the shotgun formation with junior quarterback Tyre Boykin. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound right-hander and 5-foot-7 senior wingback Kerron Washington will be primary weapons, with Boykin using his feet as well as his arm to move the Knights.
Sophomore Xzavion Morrison, a 220-pounder, is the only offensive lineman back and senior Nelson Drake will be counted on as a tight end and split wide this year, the coach said.
Others in the mix to flank Morrison up front are sophomore Kai Belle, junior Lucas Nance, junior Cammeron Collins, junior Nathan Landreth and junior Lee Roberts. Tra’shawn Ballard, a 185-pound junior, is slated for fullback.
The skill position group with Boykin and Washington include senior receiver Jacob Kinlaw, junior receiver A.J. Brown, sophomore receiver Shy’ron Adams, junior wingbacks Davian Willis-Howard and Jeremiah Payton, and sophomore wingback Malaci Oxendine.
“They’ll be getting a lot of touches,” Williams said. “As long as we keep the ball off the ground, fight for positive yardage, we’ll be OK.”
West Bladen will operate from a 4-2-5 defensively, adjusting its alignment to natural size and talent.
“We really feel like we’ve got guys who are not necessarily linebackers, they’re more or less safety size and skill,” Williams said. “That’s why we’re more 4-2-5, because those guys will play up and back.”
The faces are new, he said, and knowing assignments will go long in determining success.
“We’re concerned with tackling, and where we’re supposed to be,” Williams said. “Number one goal is to line up right first.”
The group up front includes Morrison, Drake, Landreth, Roberts, Cameron Newkirk, senior Demetrius McKoy and sophomore Kendall Pone-Johnson. Nance, Belle and Ballard are in the linebacker corps, with Willis-Howard, Oxendine, Washington, Adams and Brown in the secondary.
West Bladen yielded four touchdowns or more in each of its final six games a year ago, winning just once in the stretch.
“I think we’ll be solid, just as long as we keep working hard in practice,” Williams said.
The head coach is assisted by defensive coordinator Taurius Baker, John Ammons, Aaron Lane, Brian McCleney and Wade Pait. Ammons has safeties and ends on defense and quarterbacks on offense, Lane is working with cornerbacks and wide receivers, McCleney with special teams and Pait with defensive ends.
The head coach also hailed trainer Dennis Rutland as a “hard worker, one of those guys that anything that needs to be done, he’s awesome.”
Williams said kicking game specialists would be determined much closer to the season opener.
Of his team’s youth, Williams said, “We’ve got a lot of it, which is not a bad thing. We’re going to emphasize fundamentals, which any good coaching staff should do.”
Tyre Boykin, a junior quarterback, will be in the shotgun more this year. His head coach expects him to be a dual threat running and throwing.
Demetrius McKoy, Nelson Drake, Cameron Newkirk, Lee Roberts, Nathan Landreth and Kendall Pone-Johnson, from left to right, are among the Knights’ defensive leaders up front.
Alan Wooten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-247-9132.