Wilson defensive end Kareem McDonald prides himself on being the best defensive player in the city, so much so the rising junior often reminds H.D. Woodson cornerback D’Andre Payne of the fact whenever the two run into each other. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound McDonald is so confident, in fact, that he believes he can reach about 30 sacks this season for the Tigers – which he’s convinced would be some sort of city record.
That kind of awareness in potential is what drives McDonald, and he certainly isn’t out of place in the middle of Wilson’s defense. The unit isn’t for the meek. It returns a handful of starters from last season’s 8-3 team, and McDonald believes it will be the toughest, most physical in the DCIAA this fall.
“I think we have the best defense in the city this year. Our linebackers are crazy…real aggressive linebackers,” said McDonald, who recorded 12 sacks in 2012. “Our tough game this year is going to be H.D. [Woodson], hands down. I think that’s the only team that’s going to give us competition. Other than that, I think we’re going to run through the city. I’m just confident in my team.”
The presence of McDonald, as well as linebacker and Wilson track standout Acey Calhoun, gives the team a promising tandem on the second level heading into 2013. But Wilson was one of the most productive defenses in the city last fall (allowed just 14.3 points per game in DCIAA play), and it returns several veteran pieces from the unit, including linemen Adriel Miller (6-foot-3, 275-pounds) and Joseph Greene (6-foot-2, 225-pounds), as well as safeties Matt Thorne and Don Ferguson.
Offensively, the Tigers face the tall order of replacing the production of graduated running back Jeremy Dixon (1,549 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns). But Wilson does have senior Scott Beumel back under center (more than 700 yards and five touchdowns last fall), and will rely heavily on talented speedster Abdul Adams. The sophomore was brought up from junior varsity late last season and helped Wilson win a DCIAA playoff semifinal against Anacostia. But that was at wide receiver. He has added about 20 pounds of weight since that game, and now at 6-foot and 180 pounds, will be one of the team’s key running backs and slot receivers. Beumel will also have sophomore DeMatha transfer Juwan Hikim at his disposal at receiver.
“We’re going to do a lot of great things. We changed our offense up. We’re doing a lot more speed, like an Oregon-type, up-tempo type [offense],” Adams said. “So we’re going to be pretty good.”
Third-year coach Mark Martin has about 90 kids out for training camp, which makes the team one of the largest in the city. He is trying to turn the page on last year, when the Tigers earned their first trip to the Turkey Bowl since 1991 after beating Anacostia in the DCIAA semifinal. But the berth was stripped a few days later after a DCPS investigation found that Wilson had used an ineligible player during the season.
“It’s in the past. We’re trying to move forward. Ever since that incident happened, the kids have been working real hard,” Martin said. “I try not to think about it, but we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for the season.”
Adams said the team is using the decision as “motivation” to get back to the Turkey Bowl. Martin, meanwhile, is trying to hone the focus of his club by scheduling a difficult slate of scrimmages the next two weeks — including against Good Counsel this weekend, and Dunbar (Baltimore) next weekend. That will be followed by an interesting nonleague schedule, with dates against DuVal, Surrattsville and Kennedy.
McDonald certainly welcomes the challenge. While his rival Payne has already committed to Tennessee, he is still trying to win over schools that have only gone as far as expressing serious interest, he said — including Alabama, Maryland and N.C. State. According to Rivals.com, nine schools have expressed interest in the prospect.
“I just have this chip on my shoulder,” McDonald said, adding that the scrimmage against Good Counsel Saturday will set the tone for the season.
“Gotta have a big year,” he said.