Stepping Up in 2016
Aug 29, 2016 10:47AM ● Published by Mike
From L to R: Jack Johansson, Carson Green, Mason Holmes and Kole Ramage lead the Dragons offense into battle. Photo by Bludoor Studios
by EJ Holland
That seems to be the mantra surrounding Southlake Carroll’s offense in the early stages of the 2016 season.
With only five returning starters back in the fold, the Dragons will have plenty of new faces on the field this year. But as senior running back Jack Johansson put it, the team had a strong summer and is ready to rise to the occasion.
“We worked hard this offseason,” he said. “I feel like we all got bigger and stronger. We spent a lot more time in the weight room. We ran after, too. But overall, I think we worked really hard, and we’re ready to go out there and step up.”
Despite some personnel changes, Southlake Carroll will continue to run its efficient spread offense, which will once again feature a balanced passing and rushing attack. The Dragons are looking to build on last year’s 41.9 points per game average.
Head coach Hal Wasson made it clear that the Dragons will continue to do what they do best and is optimistic as he heads into his 10th season with the program.
“My expectation is for us to continue the legacy and have players step up in those roles,” Wasson said. “We all have high expectations. I expect our guys to go out and execute and fill the roles that need to be filled to play at a high level. We need to play at that level consistently.
“With all that said, we have a lot of young guys and new faces. It’s going to be challenging, but I think they’ll step up.”
The unit took a blow this offseason as it was hit hard by graduation. Three staples of the program, athlete Lil’Jordan Humphrey, wide receiver Zach Farrar and running back Shemar Coleman, are all off to greener pastures.
The trio combined for more than 4,500 yards of total offense last season, which equates to around 75 percent of Southlake Carroll’s production. Replacing that type of firepower will prove to be a daunting task.
“Anytime you lose that caliber of athletes, they are going to be hard to replace,” Wasson said. “Their body stature and their athleticism are hard to find. Humphrey and Farrar were both DI guys. They are talented.
“Between them and Shemar, that’s a big loss from a productivity aspect. But someone is going to step up and play at a high level.”
That someone might be Johansson. He will replace Humphrey, who signed with Texas, and Coleman in the backfield and will be leaned on as the team’s feature back this season.
Johansson saw limited action as a junior, toting the rock 28 times for 152 yards. Johansson actually spent most of his time at inside receiver, where he hauled in 13 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown.
However, Johansson, who was a full-time running back as a sophomore, is ready to receive the torch.
“I’m going to have to step up this year big-time,” he said. “We’re going to miss those guys carrying the team and everything. But as Dragons, we always come through. As one man falls, another one steps up. I know I need to step up.”
Wasson believes Johansson is ready to embrace his new role and added that newcomer Audricke Gaines will also be one to watch.
“We’re going to need productivity out of Jack Johansson,” Wasson said. “He started at running back then we moved him to inside receiver and now he’s back at running back. I think he can have a great year. We also have Audricke Gaines. He’ll get some reps at running back. We expect him to be a good, solid performer.”
Filling the shoes of Farrar, an Oklahoma signee, at wide receiver will be no walk in the park either. Farrar eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving and was a go-to option whenever the Dragons needed a big play.
No returning wide receiver recorded more than 200 yards receiving last season. Wasson, however, is optimistic the group can grow up in a hurry.
“We have Jackson Davis and Cade Bale on the inside,” Wasson said. “The other two spots are just going to come down to who is the most consistent. I guess time will tell there. I think our inside guys can be consistent. I would like to see our outside guys be more consistent.”
Southlake Carroll is fortunate to return senior quarterback Mason Holmes, who will be the unquestioned leader of the offense after starting 11 of the team’s 12 games a year ago.
Holmes proved to be an accurate passer as he completed close to 70 percent of his throws for 2,899 yards and 38 touchdowns with only five interceptions. Holmes could be in store for a big senior season, but his leadership may prove to be more valuable than his production.
“Mason means a lot to our team,” Wasson said. “He’s a great individual he’s one of the hardest workers on the team. We are young, but you have that experience with Mason at the quarterback position, and that’s really going to help us.”
An experienced offensive line will benefit Holmes. The Dragons return Carson Green, a Texas A&M commit, Harry Klinge and Justin Lee up front.
All three helped Southlake Carroll average more than 200 yards rushing per game last season and kept Holmes upright.
“We’re coming a long little by little,” Green said. “We’re just trying to find the five guys that can bond correctly. I’m just trying to step up and make sure everyone is doing their best. We all have one goal and that’s to win state.”
“Obviously, we have some big, strong guys up there. We have a couple of good guys up front. Carson Green is experienced up front. He brings a lot of leadership. Harry Klinge has a lot of size and upside. We’re just looking for the consistency there. We like what we have.”
Overall, Southlake Carroll might have some early growing pains, especially with a tough non-district schedule, but the Dragons have grown accustomed to reloading rather than rebuilding.
If the past is any indication of the future, then those new faces will indeed step up and make sure the Dragons have another successful season.