Vin Mercogliano back again with my thoughts and observations from Woodlands:
It only takes a few quick glances at the Woodlands practice field to see that the Falcons have unmistakable speed. But it’s also quite clear what they lack – size.
Coming off of an appearance in the Class C section title game, Woodlands is still fully equipped with plenty of talented skill position players – minus All-State running back Tyrone Barber. What remains unclear, though, is how coach Mike Meade will replace the vast majority of his key players in the trenches.
“All of those holes have to be filled,” Meade said. “We lost our entire offensive line, but there are guys filling in. we went to three camps, and we didn’t look real good in the first two, but we looked pretty good in the New Rochelle camp. We’re progressing on the line, but it’s going to be a work in progress. But they’re working hard, and as long as they do that, I think we’re going to be fine.”
If the Falcons can fill in the gaps up front, watch out, because they have some guys that can fly in the open field. Quarterback Myles Thigpen (pictured below) is back, and he’ll be a feared dual threat with both his arm and legs. Mix in other speedy returners such as Jonathan Stewart, Miguel Lanier and Dasean Beecham, and the potential to put up points in bunches is there.
“We had a great offseason,” Thigpen said. “Everyone was working hard in the weight room and we got a lot of experience outside with everybody – run game, pass game – so we’re really connecting in a good way, and the first day looked good.”
• Another guy who will be in the mix for touches is Stepinac transfer Rashad Baker. The vibe at camp was that the Falcons have added an impact player. Once again, Meade stressed that it will come down to how quickly the new offensive line can gel. “If we give Myles time – and again, that goes back to the line – and we block for some of these backs and get the ball in open space for them, there are plenty of guys that have speed,” Meade said. “Along with Myles and Jonathan, we have Miguel Lanier and Dasean Beecham, and if you give them the ball in open space, they can make some happen. And we just got Rashad Baker back to us from Stepinac, so he’s going to be a good one, too.”
• Stewart (pictured to the left) will be the team’s top receiver, and he spoke about his connection with Thigpen. “The way that I see it now, we’re like a duo,” he said. “We go way back since ninth grade, although we didn’t play together. Coming into sophomore year, we were playing the same positions and learning and experiencing from the past seniors.”
• As I wrote about in my previous post about Edgemont, there were offseason talks about Woodlands and Edgemont combining teams. It didn’t happen, but with Woodlands’ returning skill players and Edgemont returning four of its five starting lineman, it would have made for a potentially perfect fit. The Falcons didn’t have as many guys come out as I saw at Edgemont, but Meade said they felt confident enough in this group to drop the merger idea. “We were struggling at the time (with our numbers), and we have a great relationship with Edgemont,” he said. “We practice a lot with them and we’re maybe three, four blocks away. When we thought back in April, May and June that we might not have enough kids come out to field a team. They were struggling a little bit, too, but I think they have better numbers than we do. (If it came down to) not having a team versus merging, we thought that some of these seniors deserve to be on the field. To not have a team and them not have their senior year was a concern for us.”
• While Thigpen acknowledged that it would have been exciting to see how they could do if they moved up a class and added the Edgemont players, he seemed generally happy that the teams decided to remain separate. “I know I am,” he said. “No offense to Edgemont, but I just like being at our home field with our guys working together. It looks good this way, I think.”
File photos from The Journal News