With the kickoff of the 2014 high school football season quickly approaching, our reporters will be out at local practices checking in with contenders, dark horses and rebuilding teams alike as they gear up for the fall. Here is the latest installment of Camp Countdown:
In the grand scheme of the football season, 7-on-7 camps and tournaments during the summer don’t usually mean a whole lot for high school teams. The defense isn’t at full strength, offensive play is loose and many coaches compete without their top players, who may be on college visits or family vacation.
For the Lake Braddock Bruins, however, this summer’s 7-on-7 events took on a greater meaning.
All-Met Offensive Player of the Year and strong-armed quarterback Caleb Henderson is now in college at North Carolina and wounds from the Bruins’ last game in 2013 — a 19-16 loss to Westfield in the 6A North region semifinals — remained fresh for its stunning result after Lake Braddock entered the game 12-0 and averaging more than 48 points per game. How the Bruins would respond was anybody’s guess.
“We kind of had to redo things, and even though we still have a bunch of weapons, we didn’t exactly know how it might come together at first,” Bruins rising senior running back Dejoun Lee said. “But we came out in 7-on-7s and showed a lot of chemistry and good things.”
Lake Braddock’s cast of players isn’t entirely new. Lee, who rushed for 603 yards and 10 touchdowns on 65 carries (9.3 yards per carry), returns as the team’s latest speedy feature back, as does wide receiver/defensive back A.J. Alexander after an All-Met junior season (five interceptions, seven receiving touchdowns) and an offseason that saw his recruitment skyrocket with offers from Miami, Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia, among others.
And while Kyle Edwards has never started a game under center, his already strong football IQ is bolstered by serving as both the backup quarterback and a safety on a Lake Braddock defense led by his father. Alexander and Lee came away impressed with Edwards following their offseason competitions and workouts, but all three admit that excelling in 7-on-7 and in an actual game are two very different things.
“You know it’s coming of course that Caleb was moving on, but it doesn’t really hit you until he’s not out there on the field and then it’s all on you,” Edwards said. “You do have a little more confidence being the starter because you’re the guy and everybody is behind me. Now it’s just taking everything I’ve learned from Caleb and putting it on there on the field.”
Bruins Coach Jim Poythress said having a new quarterback won’t bring any major changes to the team’s offensive approach. He has confidence in Edwards’ ability as well as his offensive line to step up behind seniors Randy Bills, Caleb Montemayor and Logan Shock. They should allow Edwards time to connect with targets like Alexander, Peyton Scott and Josh Churchill while also opening holes for the explosive Lee as well as sophomore rusher Lamont Atkins.
“We’re not as strong up front, but I like our athleticism and some of the experience we have coming back,” Poythress said. “We might do a few different things protection-wise but our expectations for success are the same.”
Defensively, the Bruins will need to fill the holes left by playmaking linebackers Kevin Hankton and Dwight Lomax. Both players were proficient in getting into the offensive backfield and anchoring a defense that recorded five straight shutouts last year. But what the Bruins lack in the trenches, they stand to make up in coverage with a plethora of athletes in Alexander, Lee and Scott.
Even with these question marks at certain positions, Alexander is holding himself and his teammates to the same championship standard they chased in 2013.
“I’d say we’re kind of under the radar because we lost a big name like Caleb along with some other key guys, but that just means we have to play to our strengths,” Alexander said. “But that’s where me and the other seniors have to step up and motivate the younger players to be ready, because we’re still a contender.”