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August 15, 2018     The Monroe County Reporter
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Page 10 _- .. 1 August l5, 2018 MP 2018 Varsity Football Freshmen D.J. Martinez #10 salts “LS, Austin Starr # 64 mamas-.5 unanimity magmas MarquisRice#88 Park Davis'#95 MP to rely on d-line to shut down, running game By Richard Dumas iorsyth©mymcmet Defensive Line Just as in 2016 when the Bulldogs fielded an all-senior defensive front, MP’s three—man starting defensive line unit could be its strongest overall posi— tion. All three starters from a year ago return in senior defensive ends Daniel Lavelle and Kendrell Watts and senior nose tackle Der~ rick Goodson, and all three were standouts as juniors. The 6’4”, 240—pound Lavelle is perhaps MP’s top college prospect, having already received Division 1 offers from SEC program Kentucky as well as a num- ber of mid—major schools. Lavelle, MP’s third—leading tackler in 2017 with 101 stops, is currently ranked as the No. 110 senior in Georgia by 247sports. com. Lavelle, who trans- ferred from Howard prior to 2017, was also tied for second on the team in tackles-for-a—loss a year ago with 11 and was tied for third on the squad in sacks with four. Watts, Lavelle’s counter— part at defensive end, is another high-impact pass rusher. Watts recorded 57 tackles in 2017 while tying Lavelle withcfour sacks. MP head coach Brian Nelson said of Watts: “He’s hadja good offseason, and he’s kind of matured and grown up a, little bit. So I’m kind of expecting a big year . from him.” . Gbodson, whotrans- ferred from Warner Robins prior to 2017, immedi— ately cracked MP’s starting lineup, amassing 44 tackles as a junior space-eater up the middle. The primary backup to the starting trio will be junior defensive end Sherriod Jordan, who had 20 tackles as a sophomore. Linebackers Two holdovers return I from MP’s outstanding unit in 2017 that was among the top all-around linebacking corps in middle Georgia. Senior Iumon Wilson will once again start at middle linebacker, and his wide frame makes him equally adept at stuffing the run and blitzing the quarter— back Wilson was MP’s fifth—leading tackler in 2017 with 75 stops while also tying for fifth on the squad in sacks with three. Another senior, Lada- mian Sands, returns to man one of MP’s outside line- backer spots after a sterling junior season that, like Wil- son, resulted in all-region honors. Sands was second on the squad in tackles in 20l7 with 103, including 47 solo stops. He also led MP with 13 tackles-for-a—loss while finishing second on the team in sacks with five. Filling the shoes of departed star outside backer Bralen Harvey will be senior Kanidric Jones, who recorded 14 tackles as a reserve last year. Behind Jones is promising sopho— more Thomas Warren, who could fill in at several of the linebacker spots. h MP’s hybrid linebacker/ safety spot that head coach Brian Nelson calls the Dog position was also vacated with the departure of Missouri-signee Iatorian Hansford, an all-state selec— tion last year. Hansford was not only MP’s leading tackler with 107 stops, but was also the sqgad’s undisputed top edge rusher with 9.5 sacks. The huge task of replacing Hansford in the lineup with likely go to senior Laderik Barkley. who recorded eight tackles as a junior. Secondary The other new start— ers on MP’s 2018 defense will be at safety where the Bulldogs lost a pair of standouts to graduation in Ladondre Buckner and Tre Slaton. The diminutive Ia- boree Goodson, the team’s lone sophomore starter, will be called upon to step in for Slaton at rover while senior Desmond Williams, a starter at cornerback in 2017, will slide over to free safety to take Buckner’s spot. Williams, who had an excellent junior year with 63 tackles and two inter- ceptions, is expected to be one of middle Georgia’s top ballhawks in the middle of the field. MP head coach Brian Nelson said the Bulldogs are still trying to figure out how to replace adequately Buckner, Hansford, Harvey and Slaton, who made up four of MP’s eight leading tacklers in 2017. “We didn’t lose many people, but the one’s we lost on defense were pretty im— portant and good players,” Nelson said. “Bralen and Iatorian and then Slaton might have been our best player all-around last year. So replacing those guys and then Buckner, that’s prob— ably where we’re the most depleted at.” At cornerback, MP could v display one of the best duos in AAAA with return- ing senior Antoine Davis back for what could be an all—state season. Davis tied for the team lead with three interceptions as a junior, . making possibly the Dogs’ biggest individual play of the year with a goal-line pick to preserve a 28—21 victory over Upson—Lee that ultimately decided the region crown. Across from Davis will be junior Rico Harden, a Lamar County transfer who was an All- Region S-AA selection for the Trojans. Providing depth at corner will be senior TJ. Martinez while junior Wyatt Cur— rie will get playing time at safety. Offensive stars Quen Wilson and De’Adrek Alford also could be called upon in the defensive backfield. Special Teams V The unsung hero of MP’s . three straight region title teams was kicker/punter Alex Rivera, who made a remarkable of 11 field goal attempts, including a mammoth 54-yarder, ' in 2017. With Rivera and extra-point specialist . Dawson Daniel having departed, the Bulldogs have no experienced returners in the kicking game. With one week to go before MP’S season opener, the Bulldogs still had not settled the placekicker posi- tion although a handful of MP soccer standouts were ‘ expected to be in the mix. Perhaps the favorite is Se— nior Liam Spence, who has never filled the role before. MP head coach Brian Nelson saidreplacing' Rivera might be the tough- est vacancy to fill on the whole team: “We’ve got 'no ' Riveras,” he said. “We’re not trying any 50-yard field ' goals this year. We’ll be lucky to try a 30-yard field goal.” At punter MP will rely upon the duo of junior Trippe Moore and se— nior Desmond Williams, neither «of whom have ever punted on varsity. Nelson said Moore is the more consistent of the two while Williams has the bigger leg. Nelson said of Williams: “When he hits one it looks like Alex Rivera punting it. But it’s not as consistent as Alex Rivera.” One place where MP should find consistency is in long-snapping where solid senior Walter Ellison returns. The Bulldogs also should have an excellent return unit with Williams and Davis back as primary return men from a year ago. The speedy Williams averaged an astonishing 41 yards per kick return in 2017 while the elusive 1 Davis averaged 10.7 yards per punt return.