4A EAST CONFERENCE 20
Coach: Billy Mills 2014: 9-3
Offense: As usual, Dinwiddie has talent at the skill positions, including QB Bryce Witt, who passed for 146 yards per game, and James Lyons, who rushed for 69. Sophomore K’Vaughan Pope and junior Tye Freeland, a Petersburg transfer, are receivers with Division I offers. The offensive line has some talent, such as C Canaan Mills and G Treyvon Wilkerson (6-2, 350). But there are new names.
Defense: Five starters are back, including LB Cecil Parham, CB Brian Jefferson and S Reggie Williams, all seniors. The linebackers and defensive backs will be a strength. Only one starter is back on the line, DE Dakotah Hansen.
Outlook: 2014 was a rebuilding year at Dinwiddie. Almost the entire starting lineup was new. While the Generals averaged 347 yards and 33 points per game, it was their worst offensive year since 2006. Still, Dinwiddie managed to win nine games. Matching that total in 2014 seems likely. We’ll know just how good Dinwiddie is by Sept. 4, after the Generals have played Hanover. A postseason clash with another 4A heavyweight — such as Lake Taylor, Monacan or Hanover — seems inevitable.
Coach: Derek Stoudt 2014: 8-4
Offense: Hanover has one of the area’s best running quarterbacks, junior Clayton Cheatham (6-3, 220). Senior Marcus Bazala, the No. 2 running back last year, becomes the alternative to Cheatham. The offensive line is large and experienced. All five starters are seniors, led by G Mac Patrick (6-2, 290) and T Joe Fishpaw (6-4, 260). Hanover had a predominately run-based offense last year, but Stoudt says he’ll try to add more of a short passing game in 2015 in an effort to spread the field horizontally.
Defense: The strength of the defense is the linebackers, including Tabb Patrick, Tanner Lacey (6-1, 224) and T.J. Allen. DT Alex Dillard (5-11, 230) brings some size to the line, which has two seniors, a junior and a sophomore. Most of the secondary is new, except for senior S Cole Bordonie.
Outlook: Here’s what we know about Hanover: The Hawks will run the ball well. If he stays healthy, Cheatham will have a big year. Hanover will win a good chunk of games. But is Hanover a contender for the 4A state title? Usually, state champions are balanced teams. Even if they run the ball predominantly, they still can complete a pass when they need to. Can Hanover’s offense develop enough of a passing game to become balanced? The Hawks play a tough schedule, so they will be well-prepared for the playoffs. Hanover kicks off its season Sept. 4 at Dinwiddie, which should be a barnburner.
Coach: Bryan Jennings 2014: 1-10
Offense: All five starters are back on the offensive line, and there’s good size with sophomore T Brennan Thompson (6-5, 320) and G Noah Williams (6-2, 295). If the Falcons can find someone to replace last year’s 1,000-yard rusher, Marzhire Hunter, they can have a pretty good running game. Senior Donte Lester is the leading candidate. Junior Blake Page, who started six games last year, is back at quarterback. Eight starters are back.
Defense: Seven starters return, including junior LB Elijah Johnson (6-2, 200) and senior LB Jameko Coleman. Three seniors are back on the line, Niquan Crews, Jamil Mason and Williams, all of whom will play both ways. There are holes to be filled at safety. With so many players starting on offense and defense, and with minimal depth, preventing injuries is key.
Outlook: Huguenot has won one game each of the past five years, each win coming against George Wythe. Last year, that was enough to make the postseason. Now that Huguenot has moved up to 4A, the Falcons will need more than one win to advance. Now Huguenot needs three, maybe more. And Huguenot’s schedule does the team no favors. In Week 2, the Falcons face Lafayette, a 4A power. That means Week 1 against Thomas Jefferson is a must-win for Huguenot’s playoff hopes. If the team stays healthy, the pieces are there for a few wins. Huguenot opens a new on-campus field after traveling for games and practices last year.
Coach: Kevin Thomas 2014: 2-8
Offense: The offense has size, including junior T Gurbir Baath (6-5, 330) and WR Nate Millar (6-5, 200). Junior QB Ivan Jackson returns and has matured, according to Thomas. Senior Bryce Moore switches from tight end to running back, and Jack Swope also will carry the ball. The running backs are big and physical. But the offense is light on speed and short on depth.
Defense: The defense has two returning cornerbacks, Casey Joyce and Joey Doherty. There’s some size in the front seven with DT Mac Williams (5-11, 260). All three starting linebackers have experience, but two of them, Swope and Moore, play both ways. The backups will have to come along so the starters aren’t playing every snap on offense and defense. That’s the case for the defensive line, too.
Outlook: After a good year in 2012 when Midlothian nearly made the playoffs, it stumbled in 2013 and 2014 with two wins each season. With so much size on the line, a team that frequently passes the ball might be able to establish a run game. And that would make Millar, the wide receiver, more dangerous. Midlothian has a tough schedule, starting the year with Freeman and Powhatan. But three or four wins should be enough to make the playoffs, and that’s a good goal for Midlothian.
Coach: Jim Henderson 2014: 11-3
Offense: Quarterback Syour Fludd progressed throughout his freshman season. He’s back for his sophomore year, and looking to take a big step forward. Monacan ran by committee last year. Khalik Hamlin was the best back down the stretch, and if he continues that success this year, the job is his. Four of five offensive linemen are back. The receiving corps is all new.
Defense: Defense was the calling card of Monacan’s 2014 team, causing numerous turnovers each game. While some of the stars from that group are gone, some of Monacan’s most talented players again are on defense, including senior DE Juwan Addison (6-1, 245) and LBs Deandre Williams and Kelvin Azanama.
Outlook: 2014 was a huge turnaround year for Monacan, which reached the 4A state semifinals and nearly knocked off Lake Taylor, the eventual champion. The goal this year is to prove 2014 was no fluke. There are a lot of new faces — especially at wide receiver, and Henderson likes to pass. But the QB is the same and there are pieces to build around him. Monacan again will look to make a deep postseason run.
Coach: Jim Woodson 2014: 9-2
Offense: RB Logan Allen, the Times-Dispatch offensive player of the year in 2014 who ran for 2,037 yards, is gone. So are most of Powhatan’s skill players. Senior Peyton Mawyer steps in at quarterback. Junior RB Lamont Henderson returns after limited action last year, and Justin Deleon will add to the running game. Powhatan has some good linemen in C Chris Bethea and G Will Schwartz. Only four starters on this young offense are seniors, and the unit lacks depth.
Defense: The Indians are much more experienced on defense with eight starters back. But a number of them will play both ways, including Schwartz, Bethea and LB/TE Harrison King. Of Powhatan’s starting front seven, six are returning starters.
Outlook: Without Logan Allen, Powhatan will look different in 2015. But the Indians are known for producing great running backs. And with a solid offensive line, maybe Henderson or Deleon is the next top-notch ball carrier wearing black and orange. Powhatan hasn’t been helped by realignment. Before the change, Powhatan was one of the largest schools in Division 4. After a 9-1 regular season, Powhatan was dismissed in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. This year, only half of Powhatan’s games are against schools its size or larger. Powhatan can pile up wins in the regular season, but it’s still looking to become a state championship contender.
4A EAST CONFERENCE 19
Coach: Antron Yates 2014: 0-10
Offense: Only two starters return, TE DeAnde Christopher (6-4, 225) and WR Reginald Twisdale. A new quarterback, senior Juwan Wallace, takes over. The entire line is new, but there is some size with Arthur Stevens (6-0, 285). The year’s offense adds speed, according to Yates.
Defense: Two starters are back, Stevens and Twisdale. The linebacking corps is all new and includes a senior, Joseph Thorne, a junior and a sophomore. Steven Smith (6-0, 285) leads a bulky front four. The defense is somewhat young with five underclassmen in the starting lineup.
Outlook: After going winless a year ago, Caroline has a fresh start with almost all new players. But the schedule is brutal. Monacan, Patrick Henry, Dinwiddie, King William and James Monroe are five of Caroline’s first six opponents. Those teams fall somewhere between the categories of “good” and “powerhouse.” Now for some good news: Last year, the 16th and final seed to make the postseason in this region had just three wins. And Caroline can find three wins on its schedule.