DUBLIN — West Bladen will kick off its 2015 season on Friday by hosting South Robeson High, a former Three Rivers Conference foe that is now a regular first-up opponent on the non-conference schedule.
The Mustangs are coming off a 3-9 season, but West Bladen coach Russell Dove knows not to overlook the Robeson County team.
“We’re preparing for everything they like to run,” he said. “We got some looks at them in Red Springs (last week) at the Robeson County Football Jamboree, and we know from past experience what they can do.”
The South Robeson offense is built around a traditional Wing T, but will offer numerous variations — most of which will keep the ball on the ground. Most of the touches will be taken by sophomore running back Darrius Brown. With the loss of quarterback Kalvis Chavis, the Mustangs will be relying on sophomores Brayden Jones and Dylan Lancaster to guide the team.
On defense, South Robeson will operate out of the 50 and anchored by senior linemen Michael Fields and John Haggans, seniors linebackers Jordan Strickland and Deshawn Hamilton, along with senior cornerback Melquan Ocean-dinnerson.
Perhaps one of the most glaring weaknesses the Mustangs have is in depth. South Robeson will only suit up 21 varsity players Friday.
“Still, their running backs are good and they have plenty of size,” Dove said.
Haggans leads the Mustangs in the size department at 325 pounds, but the rest of the core front goes 285-280-260.
West Bladen will be showing its fans a relatively new look at several positions. The athletic and speedy Stefon McDonald takes over at quarterback, while Malique McDowell and De’quan Lennon will be the feature backs. On defense, the Knights are expecting big things from junior Hunter Pait, senior David Gittens and senior OL/DL Donald McCullum.
“I feel good about where we’re at, but we still have a ways to go,” Dove said. “Some of the younger players need reps and maturity; the defense has to play fast and aggressive; and the offensive line needs to keep gelling.”
Dove added that the players are more than ready to get on the field in a game that counts.
“They’re probably pretty tired of us (the coaches) by now, so a game that means something has given them some excitement,” Dove said.
The Knights will be short three players due to injuries — two of whom are starters. But Dove said it won’t hamper the effort.
“It will hurt us with our depth, but we’ll go hard,” he said.
Kickoff on Friday at The Castle is set for 7:30 p.m.
— W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.