The 2013 season will mark one of the rare instances in Mickey Thompson’s 13 years as coach at Stone Bridge that the Bulldogs do not feature a highly touted recruit. Yet the consensus among many in the area is that the Bulldogs still possess the talent and depth to have one of their most successful seasons yet.
Last fall, most of the attention went to defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (now at Alabama) and quarterback Ryan Burns (now at Stanford) — and rightfully so. Allen racked up 119 tackles and eight sacks to earn All-Met Defensive Player of the Year honors while Burns made the All-Met team after throwing for 2,473 yards and 28 touchdowns. But following a 14-0 start, the Bulldogs’ season ended as it has in four of the last six seasons — with a loss in the Class AAA Division 5 state championship.
“Three of those losses have been unfortunate because statistically, we won those games, but a fumble here, an interception there ended up hurting us,” said Thompson, whose team won the 2007 title. “Things happen.”
With their two biggest stars gone, some of the Bulldogs feel their team is being underestimated entering the season, adding more fuel to an already-motivated bunch.
“We’re very aware of what some people think and this year, some people are sleeping because we don’t have Jon and Ryan,” Bulldogs senior tailback Sterling Dailey said. “But that’s fine with us. We’re confident and focused on the main goal.”
In Dailey, the Bulldogs possess one of the area’s most explosive and elusive runners. Last season, Dailey rushed for 1,535 yards and 21 touchdowns and the senior stands to accumulate more offense behind Stone Bridge’s big and experienced offensive line as well as the increased looks he expects to get as a receiver.
Anchored by UNC-Charlotte commit Nate Davis, whom Thompson says could become the school’s greatest offensive lineman ever, and center Connor Smith, the Bulldogs are stacked up front with blockers who weigh about 290 pounds on average.
Another familiar face on offense is wideout D’Ante Yarborough. The senior, who earned All-Met honors in track, often exploits single coverage with his breakaway speed and good hands. Last year, Yarborough caught a team-high 40 passes for 1,070 yards and 14 scores.
“All we think about is giving D’Ante and Sterling a chance in the open field because when they are in a one-on-one situation, they can’t be stopped,” Thompson said.
Yarborough will certainly be depended upon to ease the transition of new starting quarterback Joe Thompson, who is also the coach’s son. After measuring in at 5-11, 165 pounds last year, the sophomore is now a solid 6-feet-1, 196 pounds for his first season under center. As the coach’s son and with the successful legacy laid by older brothers Patrick and Zach at Stone Bridge, Joe admits to feeling some pressure. But his familiarity with his dad’s single wing offense eases some of his tension.
“Over the summer, my dad shared the formations with me and the balance of how much we’d pass and run the ball,” Thompson said. “I think I have a strong arm and can pass well in the single wing, but I need to improve some with my throwing in our spread looks. As we scrimmage and practice more, I’m sure I’ll adjust and get better.”
Defensively, Stone Bridge has a bit more uncertainty as it looks to replace Allen, defensive lineman Jesse Mizell and defensive back Rassaun Goldring. But Thompson is confident that by Stone Bridge’s first game against a tough Lake Braddock team, the Bulldogs will be ready to build on their recent success.
“These guys feel like they have a chip on their shoulder and they can use that to their advantage by going out and playing hard and to their ability,” Thompson said.
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