Rising juniors shed their skin and become seniors as the new school year begins.
Each year a new cast of characters take the stage, largely unknown. They have nine months to win the hearts of Berkeley, Cross, Timberland and St. John’s Christian Academy sports fans.
Who are these new seniors?
Who are the top impact players to watch this fall? Who are these unknowns that will become household names by playoff time in November?
In 2009, Bruce Ellington took the field for the Berkeley Stags, a player that had yet to prove himself completely on the field. Elington was a player that Coach Jerry Brown said, “could be all he could be if he lived up to his potential.”
By May of 2010, the Ellington legend had been cemented in the hearts and minds of Stags fans everywhere when he led Berkeley to the 2009 Class AAAA Div. II state title.
Who will be this year’s Bruce Ellington?
Alex Taylor, OL: So far this spring and summer Taylor has drawn interest from colleges and he hasn’t played a down.
The attention comes from Taylor’s 6-9 frame, and like Ellington, his untested potential.
Joseph Dress, QB: A three-year starter at quarterback for the Stags, Dress has grown into the position, according to Coach Jeff Cruce.
“Joseph has matured at the quarterback position,” Cruce said. “He has a strong and accurate arm and knows where his receivers are. On top of that he’s smart, both in the classroom and with the playbook.
“Joseph is the leader of our offense on the field and off.”
Dress opted out of playing baseball this spring so he could focus on football. College coaches will get a good look at the quarterback this fall.
Vance Bailey, K: The Stags placekicker competes in four varsity sports. The senior kicker is accurate from 40-yards and also be one of the Stags’ top cross country runners.
In spring Bailey also plays soccer and runs track.
Wyatt Craig, TE/DE: The senior tight end last week secured his football future for the next four years by committing to Newberry College. Getting the college reruitment process out of the way is a load off Wyatt Craig’s mind. Now he can concentrate on football and capping his stellar scholastic career with another possible trip to the state championship game after Thanksgiving.
Craig anchors the defensive line as well at defensive end. Standing 6-3 and at 200-plus pounds Craig is 100-percent healthy after missing much of last season with a broken collarbone.
Johnell Brown, TE/DE, Timberland: The opposite bookend to Wyatt Craig on the defensive line, Johnell Brown plays older than his years. Championships are won on defense and much of Timberland’s hopes for 2014 rest on Brown’s shoulders.
Ryan Hood, QB: In his senior season, Ryan Hood has been charged with directing the Wolves’ offense this fall. Hood began 2013 as the starting quarterback but was moved to wide receiver following Timberland’s loss to Berkeley.
Hood has shown arm strength and accuracy in summer passing camps and Coach Art Craig has had Hood’s name penciled in the top slot since spring practice.
“Yes, there is a competition for the position, but Ryan has shown he’s the man back there,” Craig said. “He’s smart, sees his reads and has a good arm in the pocket.”
Shamel Williams, RB/DB: Wolves football fans have been hearing Shamel “Bolt” Williams for the past three years: “Touchdown! Bolt Williams!”
Bolt’s football career at Timberland reaches its zenith this fall and much of the Wolves good fortune will come from the touchdowns Williams scores on the football field this fall.
If Timberland is to beat Dillon in November they will need Williams on offense and defense.
Jamarial Pringle, RB/DB: The Cross Trojans are two years removed from a 2012 state championship and a brand new set of faces emerge to lead the Trojans this fall.
So far this summer, the impact player to watch from Cross has been running back Jamarial Pringle.
“Coaches have been asking for film on him,” said CHS Coach Shaun Wright. “He has been steady all summer, a model kid, 6-1, 190 pounds. He will step up and provide the senior leadership we need.”
Malcolm Garrett, OL/DL: Just a junior, Malcolm Garrett anchors the Cross offensive and defensive lines. With such a young team, Wright will be relying heavily on the two-year starter’s leadership in the trenches. It will be Garrett that opens the holes of Jamarial Pringle this fall.
St. John’s Christian Academy
Playing SCISA 8-Man football the Cavaliers usher in a new era under head coach John McCall.
McCall said a key cog in the Cavalier offense this fall will be Tyler Rose.
“He can run the football,” Mc Call said. “Tyler will see a lot of action in the backfield.”
Other top returning players from the 2013 team that went 3-7 include Dustin Parsons, Josh Carter, Byron Rogers, Luke Hutto and Robby O’Dell.