At Dunbar High nothing much has changed, but the head coach’s name. Sammy Brown took over the position after a decade-plus of service as an assistant with the Tigers program.
The transition to Brown has been seamless because of his familiarity with the players and the expectations of the program. If anything, last year’s 9-3 season where it reached a regional final has raised expectations.
Players made it known anything less than a run to state will be a disappointment. Brown, meanwhile, is focused on the Tigers’ opener at Ida Baker High.
“We want to believe that we are good enough to get there,” Brown said. “These guys want to see all their hard work during the offseason pay dividends. I want to see us play hard through the whistle and be in a position every game late to win that game.”
Offense: Something was missing from the Dunbar offense last season and Brown, who served as the offensive coordinator after years as the defensive coordinator, knew just what it was. The Tigers didn’t throw the ball as much as he would have liked last season and has made every effort to change that this season.
He brought back former offensive coordinator Dwayne Donnell to work with improving junior quarterback Jairus Johnson, who struggled last season.
“We stuck by him last season and believe it’s going to pay off,” Brown said. “He’s in his second year in this offense and he better understands the terminology.”
Johnson will also have plenty of weapons with which to work. The transfer of bruising running back Abraham Alce, who rushed for 1,138 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015, to Plantation American Heritage hurt, but Alce gave the coaching staff enough notice so they could rework the offense around a group of talented scat backs.
Speedy sophomore Seneca Millidge, senior Kenny Benjamin and Lehigh Senior High transfer Shocky Jacques-Louis are capable of busting big plays from multiple positions. The game plan will be to get the ball in their hands by any means necessary.
Look for the trio to be lined up all over the field from the slot to the backfield.
“Our goal is for the defense not to be comfortable,” Brown said.
Filling in for Alce, senior Lajuan Preston will start at running back while junior Keanu Young will provide depth.
Guards Quaveon Wright and Dwight Bartley and center Oistin Jones are the returning starters on the offensive line.
Defense: Over the last decade, Dunbar has established a strong reputation on the defensive side of the ball that was further reinforced by last year’s unit, which gave up a little less than 17 points a game.
For the trend to continue the Tigers will need to fill two huge holes at linebacker vacated by standouts Zach Lackman and Jaiylin Mays. Joining all-state caliber outside linebacker Shanon Reid will be senior Isaiah Lyons and junior Bakari Jackson.
Junior defensive tackle Judas McKenzie headlines a big, athletic defensive line which will be filled out by defensive ends Jerry Galety and Rocky Jacques-Louis.
The secondary will be made up of cornerbacks Marcus Young and Craig Small and safeties Millidge and Trevon Kennedy.
Outlook: The defending District 5A-12 champions should be in line to repeat with a rebuilding Immokalee and Lely serving as its top threats, but that isn’t the ultimate goal.
“We play a tough schedule. We’d like to think we’re pretty tough too,” Brown said. “To get to where we want to go we’re going to have to cut down on penalties and turnovers and win the field position game.”
2015 record: 9-3, lost to Tampa Jesuit in a regional final
Aug. 26 — at Ida Baker, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 — Lehigh, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Riverdale, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Lely, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 — South Fort Myers, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 — BYE
Oct. 7 — at Island Coast, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 — Cypress Lake, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 — Immokalee, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 — at Mariner, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 — Fort Myers, 7:30 p.m.