East Davidson Preview: Eagles will rely on defense to meet growing expectations
The East Davidson Golden Eagles hope last year was not a flash in the pan, but a sign of things to come.
Coming off the best season in school history, East finished the regular season at 9-3 before losing to West Stokes in the first round of the 2-A state playoffs. Despite losing 23 seniors from last year's team, second year head coach Vance Hanner is excited about the group of players he has this season.
“It's still a veteran group,” said Hanner. “Kids that played exclusively at one position will move to multiple positions to fill those holes that we have. I think you're going to be surprised at what those kids can do, because nobody knows anything about them. Their names haven't been in the paper, but now is their time to shine.”
Gone is Nathan Campbell, who was the heart and soul of last year's defense. Also absent from the roster, quarterback Austin Wallace will be missed by an offense that has surprised many in how balanced it has become.
In the last three seasons, the Golden Eagles have undergone a startling conversion from almost exclusively a running team to having the ability to air it out. Wallace was responsible for at a least a share of that success, and now junior Marquise McLaughlin will be asked to continue the team's transformation.
When asked if he would scale back the offense now that many of the producers from last year's group have graduated, Hanner insisted his intent is to maintain offensive balance.
“I want to be balanced. I think you have to be balanced,” Hanner said. “If you're just going to run it all the time, people are going to load the box. We don't have kids that can outrun everybody on the edge so we have to stay balanced to keep the defense on its heels. We're going to play to those kids' strengths. Last year, with Austin Wallace, he could throw it down the field really well. We're going to have to be different this year, to structure our passing offense to fit what we've got.”
Leading the defense in year two with Hanner at the helm, Toby Craven is expected to make some of the tackles Campbell made last year as inside linebacker. He will also spend time will the offense at fullback.
Gage Love will also pull double-duty at free safety and slot receiver, as well as Nick Bolen, who is both a wide receiver and halfback.
“The defense is the strength of our team,” Hanner said. “Nathan Campbell was a really good football player, but I don't expect a lot of dropoff with the defense.”
If East is to come anywhere near meeting the expectations the have evolved from last year, the defense must be an asset from day one.
The Golden Eagles open the regular season at home against South Davidson.
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.