Keenan coach Mitchell Moton knew he had a rebuilding job to do on offense before preseason practice started. He wasn’t anticipating losing his best defensive player to injury before the start of the season.
Preston Perkins has been a three-year starter at linebacker and has led the team in tackles the past two seasons. Perkins suffered a torn ACL in a scrimmage last week and will be lost for the season. That could prove to be a devastating blow as Keenan tries to improve on a 5-7 record and a second-round playoff exit a season ago.
“We need one of the young guys to step up and fill his spot,” Moton said. “He was, without question, the leader of our defense. We will probably miss his leadership as much as his ability on the field.
“But don’t get me wrong; it’s going to be difficult to replace his 100+ tackles a year too.”
Keenan is experienced in several areas but the one major overhaul will be the offensive line, where it loses all five starters. The only returning player with game experience is sophomore center Justice Worley. He filled in for injuries last year.
Moton does expect to use 6-foot-7, 330-pound Sanquan Harrell on both sides of the ball, along with Morris Williams, who was a state wrestling semifinalist in the heavyweight division last year. That is two big bodies the Raiders will try and run and throw behind.
“If we can get the offensive line to jell, I think we have a chance,” Moton said. “We have some guys that can make plays at the skill positions. We feel if we can fix some things upfront we can be balanced on offense and be able to compete in the fourth quarter.”
Titus Hopkins returns at quarterback and he is looking to rebound from a sub-par season last year. Hopkins has been impressive in 7-on-7 passing leagues and has a better understanding of the offense. Josh McCord is the lone returning receiver from last season.
Daetron Hyman was three yards shy of 1,000 last year and will more than likely get the bulk of the carries this season.
“We return some kids that we are going to lean on pretty heavily,” Moton said. “We need to find some other guys to step up and help them out.”
The secondary has been the most impressive unit so far in the preseason. Tony McWhite is a shutout corner who will probably be left on an island much of the time.
“Our strongest suit is probably our defensive backfield,” Moton said. “We’ve got a corner in Tony McWhite that we feel is one of the best corners in the state. That gives us the flexibility to play man coverage and get after the quarterback with our blitz packages.”
The Raiders play rival Eau Claire twice, but will be challenged in both region and non-region games. Lakewood, Calhoun County and York highlight the non-region schedule.