Northwood High School was one of only four Northwest Louisiana high school football teams to score 400 or more points during the regular season last year. The Falcons averaged 42.2 points per game during that 10-game span.
And the scary part, Northwood’s offense could be even better this year.
“When you talk about it, losing the offensive line (to graduation), losing two receivers, losing a tight end and we’re running a four- and five-wide receiver set sounds pretty tough. But honestly, I think we’re going to be right there offensively,’’ Northwood coach Jim Gatlin said.
Gatlin is not crazy. He has plenty of reasons to expect the same sort of offensive fireworks this season.
One key reason for the Falcons’ hopes is the quarterback position.
Senior Aaron Varelas is a dual threat behind center. He ran for 477 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season. He also passed for 1,626 yards with 15 touchdowns. He was District 1-4A’s offensive MVP.
“Aaron Varelas is a winner,’’ Gatlin said. “He would love to be the starting running back, but he knows he has to be the quarterback. He gets better at every practice. We know, come game time, he’s going to be better.’’
Varelas will also play this season with a year’s worth of experience in the offense.
“I’m a lot more comfortable,’’ he said. “I feel like I connected really well with the receivers. Because they’re coming back we have a lot of connection. We have a different line, but they’re doing well.’’
The rebuilt offensive line is bigger and will need to provide protection for Varelas as well as open holes in the running game.
Varelas, though, won’t have his top two receivers from last season back. Malcolm Williams (56 catches, 777 yards in the regular season) transferred to Woodlawn and Martavious Washington (46-839) graduated.
“Even without Malcolm and Martavious, we feel like we’re loaded at receiver,’’ Gatlin said.
The Falcons have junior Marquez Stevenson returning at wide receiver. Stevenson is a Division I prospect who caught 28 passes for 663 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.
While Stevenson has the most catches among the returnees, there are other receivers Gatlin expects to have breakout seasons.
“We’ve got a young man who didn’t play much last year, Darius Rice, and he’s going to have a special year,’’ Gatlin said. “He’s a special athlete. He’ll have a great year.
“We’ve got a tight end that we’ll split out, (senior) Deauton Delgado. We’ve got two running back/slot guys, Jay Hudson and Danny Delaney, that are extremely good athletes.’’
The Falcons’ offense often overshadows the defense. However, that probably shouldn’t be the case. A year ago, Northwood allowed 151 points in the regular season. No team in District 1-4A allowed fewer points.
This year, Northwood returns just three starters on defense – defensive lineman LaDante Davenport, middle linebacker Lanico Smith and defensive back Kwaume McGee.
“LaDante’s a Division I player,’’ Gatlin said. “He’s a Louisiana Tech commitment. Lanico Smith is a gamer. He’s just a hard-nosed football player. Kwaume McGee is a heckuva an athlete.’’
That core should help the Falcons’ defense.
But there is solace in knowing that scoring points shouldn’t be a problem on the other side of the ball.
“‘Our defense should be pretty good,’’ Davenport said. “We’ve got some young guys. We want to be better than we were last year.”
Coach: Jim Gatlin
2013 record: 10-2 (lost in 2nd round 4A)
Sept. 5 North Caddo
Sept. 12 Captain Shreve
Sept. 18 Bossier
Sept. 26 Loyola
Oct. 3 at North DeSoto
Oct. 9 at Woodlawn
Oct. 16 Fair Park
Oct. 24 at Huntington
Oct. 30 Benton
Nov. 7 at Minden