The Silver Creek Dragons will have a new-look defense after going 0-10 in the varsity program’s inaugural season last year.
“We were very close in a lot of games,” head coach Mike Donahue said. “We lost one by one point and a couple by three. We just didn’t have the defense last year. That’s the biggest thing we’re working on this year.”
Donahue and defensive coordinator Tony Garrett added a new 3-4 scheme to the playbook. Donahue credited Garrett, who came aboard at midseason last year, with cutting the gap in yardage conceded.
“We were giving up 400, 450 yards a game,” Donahue said. “With Garrett we had it down to about 250.”
The Dragons are also concentrating on special teams under coach Chris Jones.
“He’s a former college kicker,” Donahue said. “Our average punt was 15 yards and our farthest kick was about 30. He’s already changed that markedly.”
The offense will feature two additional formations.
“I’m not a conservative coach by any stretch,” Donahue said. “The I, split-back, pistol, basic spread, pro set — we’ll run or pass out of any of them.”
Anchoring the offense will be junior quarterback Brooks Howell, who’s been the starting passer since week two of last season. Howell threw for 2,133 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The ground game is one of the Dragons’ top strengths, led by senior Layne Taylor. Taylor said he’s been focused on conditioning “for strength to go along with my speed to complement my game, so I can be a dual-threat type of player.”
Taylor described the Dragons’ multiple offense as “diverse.”
“We run, pass, with six or seven formations that use different looks and different alignments with our wide receivers,” he said. “On defense, keeping them guessing is what’s going to be our strength.”
Donahue praised Taylor, calling him “the once-in-a-career back.”
Also contributing in the backfield will be a trio of juniors: Zach Reynolds, Eli Jones and Brad Graham.
“Zach is a great fullback,” Donahue said. “He’s strong, runs hard and he will be very good.”
The Dragons lose last year’s key receiver, Grant Meyer, to graduation and will look to seniors Adam Wilder and Trevor Spence to step up.
Donahue said freshman newcomer Austin Hasting is one to watch.
“He’s the fastest kid we have on the team in the 40 time,” he said.
An experienced line with several upperclassmen gives the Dragons another edge. Returning are senior right tackle Nathan Nolley, junior center Jordan Wilson and senior left guard Tyler Gregory.
Senior leaders on defense include linebacker Ben Davis and defensive back Jared Sowders.
The defensive line is powered by junior tackle Derek Sheffield, senior Tyler Forehand and senior Austin Langford.
“I think our linemen are going to stand out this year,” Sowders said. “We have most of our players back and everybody’s stepped up, so I think our whole team’s going to be complete.
“We’re going to be a hard-hitting team this year, different from last year. Aggressive.”