GRIDIRON 2019: Lancaster is finally fielding big front lines

Lancaster High School Red Devils

Football rosters & more are in this week’s paper

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

Size matters.

At least when it comes to the offensive and defensive lines. And historically, Lancaster has been small in the trenches. But not this year, according to coach Draper Washington, who says for once Lancaster is big up front.

I don’t think in my coaching career here we have ever had ten kids over 200 pounds,” said Washington, who begins his third season as the Red Devils’ head coach. He was an assistant for a decade or so. “Typically at Lancaster it’s been a lot of skill kids and speed kids, but for the first time, we have a lot of depth on the offensive and defensive lines.”

And that’s saying something. The Devils have long struggled against teams with hefty hitters like Essex and Washington & Lee. The match-up on the line has been lopsided for a lot of years.

Hopefully, the added weight will help lift the Devils out of their recent slump. Lancaster has won just three games in the past two years.

The real obstacle has been lack of numbers. And although Washington and company suit up 22 on varsity, Lancaster is still at a disadvantage against the Trojans, Eagles and now Northumberland, which following two successful seasons is experiencing a resurgence in participation.

Our lack of numbers and lack of depth in the skill position kids is a problem,” said Washington. “My biggest fear is one of my skill guys getting injured.”

The Devils had some close non-district losses early in the season last year, losing in overtime to Sussex and by three to Nandua. Then thanks to a rainy fall was forced twice to play two games in one week, which if you’re short on numbers, doesn’t help.

Last year, we were in most of the games through the first two quarters but they’d just run out of gas,” said Washington. “When you’re asking the same kids to play offense and defense, its hard on them.

And when you play on a Monday and Friday, that’s hard on a team with 20 or so players.”

And unfortunately that’s going to be the case and the big obstacle again this year. Washington has about seven players that won’t exit the field. However, a lot of his lineman will get a breather, which hasn’t been the case in past years.

Offense

Gone is Lancaster’s all-region rusher Chris Dameron. His graduation leaves a big void. Dameron averaged 153 yards per game and led the district in rushing with 1531 yards in 10 regular season outings. He also scored 92 points with 14 touchdowns and four two-point conversion runs.

Losing Chris is big,” said Washington. “You don’t want to put that much emphasis on one player but he was our offensive production last year, so trying to replace him is going to be tough.

But my thought is if we can get three yards a carry from whoever we put in his spot, then we’re running in the right direction.”

Sophomore returner Troy Cox Jr. will get most of the totes this season.

Washington also lost his quarterback in graduate Tae Veney. He’ll be replaced by returning sophomore Calvin Redmond Jr.

This is my third year and every year, I’ve lost my quarterback,” said Washington. “But each one was a senior and this year Calvin’s a sophomore and I’m excited about that. I’ve got him for three years.”

Redmond, unfortunately is untested in game situations, and “the speed of the game is going to be a learning curve for him. He hasn’t really experienced live action being thrown at him.”

But Redmond is mobile and a passing threat.

He has natural ability throwing the football, but like any young athlete, he has to work at perfecting his craft.”

Redmond’s targets this year will be returning senior wide receivers Xavier Sutton and Cameron Towles, returning sophomore receiver Destin Howard and returning senior tight end Jaiquawn Smith.

Starting on the line will be junior returner Elijah Wood-Laws at center, senior newcomers Krishawn Wiggins at one guard spot and returning sophomore Tate Wilmore as the other guard. Starting at tackle is senior newcomer Kaliq Beane and sophomore returner Zach Churchill. The average weight on the line is 250 pounds.

Backing up the starting o-linemen are also some big hitters in senior Josiah Arrington (280), sophomore Jamari Smith (225), junior Terrence Waddy Jr (230) and Xzaveah Thompson (245).

What this offense has to do is NOT turn the ball over,” said Washington, which was a big issue for the Devils last season.

Defense

I’m actually kind of excited about this defense,” said Washington. “We’re huge up front. We’ve never had this big of a defensive line.”

Starting across the line are defensive ends Beane and Thompson and tackles Arrington and Churchill.

Cox makes the move from defensive end and junior Daniel Smith makes the move from the line to anchor the linebacking corps along with senior returning linebacker Carlos Norris and Jaiquawn Smith.

Although D. Smith, Jaiquawn Smith and Cox are new to the position, they have game experience and Washington is confident in the stopping unit.

What we have to do this year is make the stops on that first or second down, like we did last year, but then don’t give up the big play on third or fourth down. That was a big problem last year,” said Washington.

Defending against the pass will be Sutton and Henderson at the corners and Towels downfield at safety.

Special teams

D. Smith will handle the punting and kicking duties, while the team speedsters Towles, Sutton and Henderson will be the return men.

Lancaster will open regular season play on September 6 at Sussex Central, where the Devils hope to avenge last year’s overtime loss.