Even with one of the best running backs in county, Gaithersburg limped to just three wins last fall. Opponents loaded the box to stop junior speedster Solomon Vault, who recorded his second straight 1,000 yard season — as well as 20 touchdowns — but the Trojans defense was suspect at best. Gaithersburg allowed 25.5 points per game, and gave up 30 or more points in half of its games.
While the buzz surrounding Gaithersburg continues to be around the Northwestern-bound Vault with fall camp starting this week, Thursday morning’s grueling practice seemed geared toward conditioning the offense. Coach Kreg Kephart drilled his defense, which returns six starters, with round after round of the “pursuit drill,” where every defender must rally to the ball in the flat, where a receiver is trying to outrun and outcut them. Then he layered that hour-long activity with a 20-minute conditioning that left many of his players at the brink.
“If these guys play to their potential, and we stay healthy, and we do not share breaks,” Kephart said, “we can compete for the playoffs. Once you make the playoffs, its a four-game season, and things can happen.”
The development of rising junior Kamonte Carter should help that quest. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Carter has added 20 pounds this offseason and has stepped into the play-calling role from his outside linebacker role. On Thursday, he seemed comfortable calling audibles out on the line. Carter had a big summer on the recruiting trail too, picking up offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Temple and Rutgers, he said, adding to a growing list of scholarship offers that includes Maryland, Nebraska, West Virginia, and Penn State, among others.
“It feels pretty good to be recognized. I haven’t really been one of the really big names, ever. I haven’t really been noticed too much my whole life. So doing what I love, getting recognized for it, it’s pretty good,” Carter said, adding that West Coast schools such as Oregon and USC are also expressing heavy interest. “Last year was my first year, so I’m considered a veteran in this thing. Most people only get two years, so I gotta act like it.”
Offensively, Vault is the centerpiece of a unit that returns nine starters. Senior Nick Decarlo will be back under center, and Tinashe Gwashavanhu is back to anchor an offensive line that struggled to stay healthy last season. The camp’s biggest surprise so far has been wide receiver Vicco Beddell, who transferred to Gaithersburg from a school in New Jersey last year. He excelled in track for the Trojans during the spring, and with sub 4.4 40-yard dash speed, is a hair faster than Vault. That is fine with Vault, who is aware of the defensive pressure he will see this fall. But on the second day of camp, everything is still based on talent, not production.
“I think we definitely have more talent. The quarterback is a returning starter, we’ve got a lot of receivers, a lot of skill positions, and our lines pretty good too,” Vault said. “A lot of new guys moving up, so I think we’re going to be pretty good this year.”