Fresh from a 9-3 campaign in 2011, Richland Northeast enters a new season with an air of uncertainty.
The Cavaliers’ starting lineup in the Aug. 17 opener against South Aiken will have few familiar faces, and there are two new coordinators on the coaching staff.
“It’s not that we’re going to be overly young but we don’t have a lot of experienced guys, especially on defense,” said Jay Frye, who is 105-71 in 14 seasons at RNE.
“We have a bunch of guys who have been in the program and waiting their turn. Now, it’s time for them to step up. We had a good spring and the guys worked hard over the summer, but I guess we really won’t know where we stand until we get some games in.”
The strength of the team is an offensive skill crew that features seniors A.C. Whaley, Craishaud Foulks and Denzel Washington.
Whaley (6-3, 220) blossomed into a top quarterback a year ago — completing 149 of 255 passes for 2,096 yards and 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He ran for 282 yards and four scores.
Foulks emerged as an elite receiver, catching 55 passes for 802 yards and six TDs. The 5-11, 165-pounder won the Class 4A state high jump championship in the spring.
Washington, who missed four games due to an injury, had 277 yards rushing and six touchdowns in a backup role.
The receiving corps also includes veteran seniors Ryan Howell (20-293-0) and Shamar Foulks (12-127-2).
The big question offensively is up front. Alonzo Cooper, the only returning starter, has switched to the defensive line.
“Given our inexperience up front and our talent at the skill positions, we’ll probably be throwing the ball a good bit this season,” Frye said. “How much more will be determined week to week based on how we’re progressing up front.”
The defense took an even bigger graduation hit.
Cooper (6-0, 240) will open at a defensive end spot. Backup tackles Angel Crespo (5-10, 240) and Railand Quarles (6-0, 325) are expected to be the interior anchors as first-time starters.
Seniors Divarius Leverett and Ahmad Dunlap are projected starters at linebacker.
The Cavaliers have a potentially solid secondary with brothers Malik and Marcus Scott at cornerback, Gerald Brooks and transfer Rashaan Bourquin at the safety spots.
Brooks, utilized primarily at linebacker a year ago, is the top returning tackler with 43 stops in 2011.
The kicking game should be a strong point with the return of senior Sam Lourie, who has hit eight field goals and 59 PATs in two years.