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 our Camp Countdown:
DuVal Coach Dameon Powell is almost always smiling. Except when he’s yelling. He does that some, too.
He smiles when he talks about his team, which made it to the 4A South region final against Suitland– effectively the Prince George’s County championship — but fell on a last-second blocked field goal, of all things. He yells at his Tigers for even the smallest mistakes because this year, they want more.
“We learned last year that every little thing we do counts,” Powell said. “From blocking, to which step you take, our linemen’s assignment, so we’re trying to fix the little tiniest things.”
Powell can’t help but smile when he talks about Antoine Brooks, his now junior quarterback/safety/athlete who’s as smooth as they come on both sides of the ball. He threw for 1,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 last year. He may actually be a better safety, with standout closing speed that’s deceptive because it looks so easy.
But at practice, Powell yells at Brooks plenty. Mixed-up play calls or a misread routes can’t happen when you’re trying to transition your team from “pretty good recently” to “perennial power.”
With more strong arms headed for varsity, Powell may be able to move Brooks around on offense. That versatility will ease the loss of last year’s weapons –such as leading rusher Terrence Davenport and leading receiver Jamal Woodland — to graduation.
Junior Corey Phillips and senior Tulu Adeboyeku will inherit carries from Davenport, and junior Demarco Seay (nine catches for 151 yards in 2013) and senior Columbus Sampson provide options on the outside.
“We’re young but very, very talented,” Powell said.
Crucially in Prince George’s County 4A, a league in which standings are often determined in the trenches, DuVal has size on the offensive and defensive lines.
“We’ve got a very big team this year – some big boys, but we’re young,” Powell said. “I think we can match up talent-wise, skill-wise and size-wise.”
Defense, Brooks says, will be the strength of the team, which makes sense given the Tigers allowed 20 points just once in 12 games last season. Senior Tommar Phillips will anchor the Tigers’ linebacking corps, and he says aggression is the unspoken mantra of the DuVal defense.
“We’re a bunch of piranhas,” Phillips said.
Though the Tigers have their sights set on another deep playoff run, they’ll be challenged immediately. Their first game is against DCIAA dark horse Wilson. Their second is against Wise. Two weeks later, they’ll face Maryland 4A runner-up Suitland.
“We have to learn how to keep fighting and stay strong,” Brooks said. “We’re already physically strong, but we need to get more mentally strong, and we’re getting that down pat this year.”