Gwynn Park football coach Danny Hayes got an early look at some of his newest players this past Saturday in the MDVarsity.com Passing Jamboree in Frederick. And though the Yellow Jackets competed with less than a full complement of players, Hayes was pleased with his team's performance as it won three out of four games in the first day of the Washington area's biggest summer football event.
The Yellow Jackets went 11-2 last season, won the Maryland 3A East Region and advanced to the state semifinals before losing to eventual champion Linganore.
But several key players -- including quarterback Lamar Hyson, running back DeAndre Wright and twin receivers-defensive backs Rafiq and Jahiri Gunthorpe -- graduated. All told, Hayes said, 18 of last season's 21 seniors are going to play college football, and seven are bound for Division I-A programs.
Despite such heavy losses, expectations remain high at Gwynn Park, partly because of an influx of transfers. With more than a half dozen new players, every opportunity to play together bears extra importance.
Rob Surratt, one of the contenders to replace Hyson at quarterback, missed this past weekend's tournament, but Hayes was pleased with several other players.
That group includes wide receivers Patrick Freelon, who transferred from Texas, and Quinton McCree, who attended Gwynn Park but did not play last season.
Andrew Banks and Steve Floyd, a pair of backups last season, split time at quarterback as the Yellow Jackets defeated Arundel, Georgetown Prep and Friendly and lost to Frederick on an interception return for a touchdown in the closing seconds. Hayes expects the two to compete with Surratt, who played wide receiver, quarterback and cornerback at Episcopal last season, and freshman Shawn Thomas. Surratt and Thomas will get their first chance to play with their new teammates on the jamboree's second day, June 26.
"It's important to start getting our rhythm together for the season," said Surratt, the son of Bishop McNamara girls' basketball coach Robert Surratt. "And to show coaches how much passing we'll be able to do during the season also. I'm looking to make a big impression on everybody when I get out there."
Another of the Yellow Jackets' newcomers who did not play this past weekend is well known to some county coaches. Wilbert Brinson, a senior, started at cornerback and running back last season for Suitland before transferring this spring.
"He'll do everything you want him to do," said Suitland Coach Nick Lynch, who said Brinson will be an impact player for the Yellow Jackets. "No moaning, he just plays football. He is definitely going to help them."
Other transfers include former Parkdale lineman Terrance Randolph, a 6-foot, 345-pound senior, and Rondre Smith, who was academically ineligible last season at Oxon Hill. Hayes said Smith played linebacker for the Clippers two seasons ago but that he might play defensive end at Gwynn Park. They join a group of talented players led by safety Aaron Hicks and wide receiver Anthony Herbin.
"I'm looking for big things out of all of those guys," Hayes said. "All I do is sit here; all they do is show up. Then they sign up, and I go with it. I expect [the newcomers] to do the same things we do, and we'll go from there. They know it's not a picnic when they come here, trust me."
Note: DeMatha edged Potomac, three touchdowns to two, in the championship game of the tournament in which 32 teams played one-hand touch with seven players a side.