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:
First he heard a pop. Then came a few giddy yells, followed by the crunching of players’ pads.
Keith Goganious was trying to focus on his varsity team, looking to make the most of a rare sunny day amid last week’s persistent rain showers. But the McNamara football coach couldn’t help but turn his attention to the other end of the field, where the Mustangs junior varsity team filled the air with the refreshing sounds of preseason football.
“Coach, you might need to send some of those guys over here,” Goganious yelled to the JV coaches. “They know how to hit.”
Hordes of ripe talent — from the JV to the varsity — make up the McNamara roster as Goganious enters his second season at the helm. Thirteen new transfers came to the team this offseason, granting Goganious plenty of weapons in a spread offense that he hopes will shift the Mustangs out of neutral and into playoff contention in the top heavy Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.
“With this being my second year, I was able to bring in my type of players that understand my expectations, that can play to the tempo that I like,” Goganious said. “All we need to do is just make the playoffs. Anything can happen from there.”
The last time McNamara earned a berth in the four-team conference playoffs was 2009. After starting last season 5-0 and with highly touted lineman Damian Prince up front for an offense averaging 40.6 points, the Mustangs appeared on their way to ending their postseason drought. But five straight losses by an average of 23.2 points to perennial powers like DeMatha, Good Counsel and Gonzaga again left the Mustangs on the outside looking in.
Yet even with Prince now at Maryland and the sour end to last season, McNamara again stands to put up a plethora of points — only this time, the team expects to also pile up wins.
Fresh off a sophomore campaign in which he threw for 2,654 yards and 24 touchdowns, Ramar Williams stands as one of the area’s top quarterbacks with a strong arm and quick feet to make plays. The junior has a number of options at wide receiver, including Camari Murray, who moves into the No. 1 spot with the graduation of second-team All-Met Jordan Crockett and after snagging a team-high 63 catches; Alfonso Banks IV, who transferred from George Mason; Brian Thompson, and Ashton White, a Notre Dame recruit who is more known for his skills at defensive back.
“Those guys just add on to us being a better team,” Williams said. “They all have a great skillset and my mentality is different now in the film room and weight room. I’m expecting at least eight wins out of us.”
Another two-way standout transfer is Jordan Edwards, who came over from DeMatha after playing with Williams and Murray for the U.S. U-17 team in the International Bowl in February. Edwards possesses the physicality and skill to excel at both the linebacker and running back positions.
Edwards is part of a strong class of juniors on the Mustangs, who feature just five seniors on their roster. In other words, the future is bright for McNamara football as it works to shake up the imbalance of power in the WCAC, where either DeMatha or Good Counsel has won the last 11 titles.
But for Banks IV, who hopes to capitalize on the freedom of McNamara’s spread attack after playing in George Mason’s single-wing offense, the future is now when it comes to turning the Mustangs into a legitimate contender.
“I truly think we are capable of winning it all,” Banks IV said. “I see the chemistry and really respect our coaches and what they’re trying to do. If we go out and ball and fight for every play, I think we can surprise some people.”
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