New Stratford football coach Joe Marion said the Knights are still benefitting from last season’s appearance in the championship game.
He said over 120 football players have been out for spring practice.
“People are still excited,” said Marion, the former defensive coordinator who took over for Ray Stackley. “We’ve got a lot of kids out and I see a bunch of them that can help us… We’ve looked crisper in pads than I expected.”
The Knights will wrap up spring practice on May 23 at 5:30 p.m. Admission will be free.
“We’re going to split the squads into red and white,” Marion said. “We’ve got game officials. We’re going to have concessions, and we have a DJ coming. We want to create some more excitement.”
Last fall, the Knights went 12-3 behind quarterback Jacob Park and a stingy, senior-laden defensive unit. They lost to Northwestern in the state final.
“Even though we didn’t win, it showed what the program is capable of,” Marion said.
The heir-apparent at quarterback is rising senior Jamison Mobbs, who has the same type of frame and arm strength as Park. It remains to be seen if Mobbs will have the same ability to improvise when things break down but he has a good knowledge of the offense.
Maybe, though, he won’t have to scramble as much as Park did.
“It looks like the strength of our team is going to be our offensive line because we’ve got so many guys coming back,” Marion said. “We only lost one starter.”
Jameak Jones is atop the early depth chart at running back, while Chris Allen and K.J. Givens are the most experienced targets in the passing game. All three have substantial experience.
Defensively, the Knights have more question marks and a new coordinator in Joey Sheppard. Sheppard will be more flexible and add some wrinkles, Marion said.
“We were mainly Cover 3 but he’ll probably be more flexible and experimental,” he added. “We’ll have some surprises for spread teams.”
The secondary will be all brand new and they don’t have as much experience returning at the other two levels.
Daniel Dees and Rodrigo Hernandez are returning starters on the interior defensive line and playmaker T.J. Deveaux is back at linebacker.
“He made a lot of super plays at the end of the season last year,” Marion said.
Menre Rice was a backup linebacker but he got significant reps on the second level and some defensive end snaps. Navae Daniels was another backup linebacker but he also rotated in frequently enough to get significant experience.
Tyreik Faulks figures to make the move from outside linebacker to free safety.
On special teams, rising senior Tyler Tekac gives the Knights a leg up on opponents. He’s got a strong leg to change field position on punts and can make a run at long-range field goals.