Moral victories don’t get teams into playoffs but enough of them are often evidence a program is moving in the right direction.
The Stratford Knights appear to have plenty reasons to be filled with optimism for the 2020 campaign. The Knights, while finishing 3-6 overall and 1-4 in Region 7-AAAAA, were very competitive in Coach Dennie McDaniel’s second season. Four of the six losses were by single digits and they trailed region champion Goose Creek by just six points in the final quarter before the Gators finished strong.
“We’re not happy with moral victories and, like everybody else, we want to be in the playoffs but we did take steps in the right direction,” McDaniel said. “We were in a lot of ball games.”
They’ve already gone to work on their 2020 vision. McDaniel said each player has specific strength training and conditioning goals to hit in the offseason.
“We’ve got some guys that need to take off some weight,” he said. “We’ve got some that need to bulk up. We’ve got some that need to be more flexible. And everybody can always get quicker.”
The Knights return a strong contingent of weapons on offense. Junior quarterback Josh Davis passed for 2,006 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for four scores.
Freshman running back Jaedon Alston and junior running back Javion Taylor can be a good 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Alston rushed for 496 yards and five scores while Taylor added 414 yards and five touchdowns.
Many of Davis’s targets in the passing game are set to return, led by junior Damaris Anderson. Anderson grabbed 45 passes for 517 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored three touchdowns in the running game.
Junior David Washington (32-480-2 TD) and junior Jaylin Hayward (28-371-4 TD) add to Stratford’s strength at the receiver spot.
One senior receiver moves on in Matthew Cudd, who hauled in 35 passes for 464 yards and a touchdown.
Junior Thomas Blackmon will be a leader on the offensive line who can return. Three other returning players up front — Bailey Jones, Jonathan Eaton and Avery Heyward — also got substantial playing time.
On defense, junior linebacker Mason Lord looks like the cornerstone in the middle. He was in on 106 total tackles, one behind senior linebacker Sean Kohut. The next closest player on the tackles chart was at 45 stops.
In the secondary, senior Tamir Simons hauled in three interceptions while freshmen Jakai Robinson and Savionne Jones made two picks apiece. Junior Justin Jordan is also a returner in the defensive backfield.
Junior defensive lineman Meech Holman and freshman linebacker Brett Marrs, who got pulled up from JV late in the season, will add to Stratford’s experience level in 2020.
On special teams, punter Adam Beard was a junior and kicker Jordan Ray a senior. Beard punted 31 times and averaged 32 yards. He stopped eight inside the 20-yard line and had a long of 47 yards.
Ray made 18 extra points and booted a long field goal of 41 yards.
“We expect to be able to compete in the region and make the playoffs,” McDaniel said. “We want to continue to build our program. Last year, we were changing the culture. Next year, we want to go out there and win.”