Oct 18, 2017 01:40PM
● By Ashley Pape
Behind the leadership of 11 All-District 1st Team selections on offense, including District MVP and quarterback Mason Holmes, the Carroll offense was incredibly consistent in 2016.
The Dragons averaged nearly 37 points per game, scored at least 28 points in their final 11 games and posted better than 35 points seven times in a nine-game stretch.
And while the 2017 version of the Dragons’ attack will be breaking in some new faces, head coach Hal Wasson and the Carroll players are confident in the ability of the unit to do the same.
Four starters are back on the offensive side of the ball, headlined by senior offensive linemen Matthew Leehan (center) and Baylor commit Jackson Kimble (left tackle). Both were first-team all-district selections a year ago (as was the entire starting Dragons’ line) and the pair is excited at the opportunity to bring along three new starters.
“Last year, we had three all-state players and three all-district players,” Kimble said. “This year, Matt and I are kind of the leaders of the o-line. It’s different. Last year, we were allowed to have a bad practice here or there or mess up. This season, we really have to set that example. That’s not acceptable. It makes the whole line look bad because they feed off our energy. If we’re slack- ing, they’re going to, so we have to keep that energy up.”
Rounding out the Carroll unit in the trenches is senior Logan Stelling (left guard) and juniors Henry Mossberg (right tackle) and Cameron Hataway (right guard).
“I really feel like we’re ahead of where we were last year at this point last year though,” Kimble said. “And we had that incredible line then, so I’m real excited for it.”
Wasson has also been pleased with the progression up front and believes the offensive line could be a strength of the team.
Senior running back Tavian Gould saw limited varsity action last season (135 yards, one touchdown) and will combine with Coppell transfer and junior TJ McDaniel in the backfield.
The pair will be tasked with replacing the production lost by the graduation of Audrick Gaines (1,524 yards, 21 touchdowns).
Gould has high hopes his final year with the Dragons, including averaging at least eight yards per carry.
“I also want to get two to three explosive plays per game that can really make an impact,” he said. “We have some big guys up there in front of us, so we just have to look for that crease and hit it.”
McDaniel, meanwhile, eclipsed 100 yards in Carroll’s season-opening win over Broken Arrow with two touchdowns.
Wasson likes the depth and quality the Dragons possess at the position, but noted he would like to see an improvement in blocking from Carroll’s backs.
“Their vision and feel for the offense continues to get better,” he said. “But we’re going to have to do a better job in protection.”
Under center, junior Will Bowers is looking forward to the prospects of continuing the tradition Carroll has become accustomed to having at quarterback.
“I’ve been here my whole life,” Bowers said. “I’ve grown up a Dragon through kindergarten. [Knowing the tradition is] a little extra pressure, but I’m excited to try and live up to that. I know there is an expectation that I have to meet and I’m prepared to do that, but at the end of the day I just have to be myself and play within myself.”
Bowers received plenty of competition from the likes of senior Clayton Webb and sophomore Blake Smith during the offseason, but Wasson noted the job belongs to Bowers.
“We’re really pleased with what we saw from all three of them,” he said. “They’ve all done good things and bring some different things to the table. It’s a competitive spot and the camaraderie has made them all much better, but I’ve never liked to put our quarterbacks in a situation where they’re looking over their shoulder.”
Bowers believes he is ready for the responsibility of helming the Carroll offense, and that he has developed a nice chemistry with his receiving corps during the offseason.
“It’s been a good fall camp and we’re really picking up the tempo and getting ready for game speed,” he said. “That experience came through spring ball though. Getting all the reps then really helped for fall camp and getting me prepared. I feel like we’ve really started to bond and it’s really coming together right now. We just have to have good decision making and an understanding what the defense can do and how to attack them.”
Last year, Bowers completed nine of 15 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in backup duty to Holmes.
Against Broken Arrow, he went an efficient 20-of-26 for 258 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions and Wasson noted he was pleased with how Bowers responded to the miscues, one of which was a result of a deflection.
Carroll’s lone returning starter at the skill positions offensively is senior Cade Bell (25 catches, 325 yards) who had a huge debut against Broken Arrow with eight receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Joining Bell outside will primarily be se- niors Colton Phillips, Tucker Slechta (return- ing from injury), Hudson Shrum and Darryl Crockett (who will also contribute in the secondary) and sophomore Wills Meyer.
On the field, Carroll anticipates a balanced attack that will benefit not only from an increase in team speed, but an increase in tempo.
“I feel like as a team we are in better shape because we’ve been practicing really fast,” Gould said. “I think we’re going to be very good because we’ll be conditioned to handle it more. There is a lot of speed and tempo, with tempo being the main thing. We’re able to go from play to play to play.”
With the talent in place and a tempo that will stress opposing defenses, the Dragons have the potential to be among the dynamic offenses in the Metroplex.
That could put the Dragons in place for another district title and a lengthy postseason run — one that Bowers is excited for the chance to lead his senior teammates on.
“I’ve understood that since the end of last season,” he said. “I am going to have to carry a load for the senior class and I’m ready for it and prepared and I know the rest of the guys are too.”
“It all comes down to winning the last game,” Kimble said.
Dragon Pride Fall 2017