HUDSON — While Fivay hasn’t lost much in terms of numbers, the Falcons will graduate three instrumental leaders from last season’s surprising state playoff team.
Kyrie Rodriguez, James Bullock and Anthony Perkins were vocal and physical motivators on and off the field, so it’s easy to think their departures will leave major voids to fill.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Rising seniors Tyler Degen, Kelly Meus and Andrew Meyer are all primed to step in as leaders. Even last season it was obvious to the coaching staff that these three players were natural leaders waiting for the right time to step up.
“We have a good crop of players that have already shown an ability to step forward,” coach Chris Taylor said. “Most of these kids have been with me for the past three years, so as a coaching staff, our expectations have risen. The seniors know that.”
Degen, the starting quarterback, is in an instinctual position for leadership as the offensive field general. He threw 16 touchdowns last season, his first as the starter. With Bullock and Sean McKillen as his main targets, he became more and more comfortable as the season wore on.
Meus will replace Perkins, an all-conference guard. As the anchor of Fivay’s biggest strength, the offensive line, he will be counted on to make adjustments. Meyer should step to the forefront as the top wide receiver after catching six passes and two touchdowns last year.
Though none of these players are running backs like Rodriguez, Taylor touts the depth he has at the position with rising juniors Davion Sutton and Bryan Poinsette to go with rising sophomore Josiah Shumaker and rising senior Aaron Gordon.
Another senior leader will be tight end Kevin Faulkner. The highly-touted target has been sidelined for the entire spring with a hand injury, even though he has been cleared by doctors. Taylor continues to sit him for precautionary reasons.
Hagood looking good
Hernando outside linebacker K.D. Hagood had a reserve role last fall as a backup to Zach Pritz, one of the North Suncoast’s top tacklers. But with Pritz gone, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Hagood has made a strong impression this spring.
When Leopards bruiser Jeremiah Jackson bulldozed his way through tacklers during a Monday drill, Hagood held on to Jackson’s jersey — for 15 yards after the play. Moments later, Hagood blew up a rush with a smashing hit to end the drill.
As a sophomore, Hagood put up good numbers: one TD rush, 46 tackles, one sack, one interception and two forced fumbles.
How do you replace…
One of the area’s top two-way players? That’s the challenge for River Ridge, which loses running back/defensive end Austin Schwarz to graduation.
“We’ve got some big shoes to fill,” coach Ryan Benjamin said.
Schwarz starred last year as a senior. He led the 6-4 program with 509 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on offense to go with a team-best 70 tackles and 8 1/2 sacks on defense.
Benjamin won’t have to look far to find help in the backfield. Brian Clinkscale averaged 5.85 yards per carry and scored four TDs as a junior. Tyler Green’s junior season included 352 rushing yards, and QB Josh Maisel ran for seven touchdowns, too.
“There are a few individuals we’re going to pay close attention to,” Benjamin said.
Stats of the day
1291 Rushing yards Mitchell loses to graduation from Mordell Holley, Freddie Jones, Spencer Whittaker and Cory Fenech
990 Rushing yards Mitchell’s run-heavy offense returns from Christian Trinidad, Dan Barber, Max Gebler and Jake Guzman
Tweet of the day
@FivayHSAthletic: “The only place where SUCCESS comes before WORK is in the dictionary — Vince Lombardi”
Compiled by staff writer Matt Baker and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere.