Items filtered by date: July 2012
Friday, 20 July 2012 04:41

Football preview: Eagles may benefit from keeping familiar face

Former offensive coordinator Geoff O'Donnell begins time at helm of SouthLake program. By Sergio Tovar

Quarterback Randy Schroeder and wide receiver Demitri Allison, both seniors, look to lead SouthLake Christian under new head coach Geoff O'Donnell. SERGIO TOVAR - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

1q3Svn.Em.138SouthLake Christian Coach: Geoff O'Donnell (First year) 2011 record: 10-2, NCISAA Div. II semifinals. Key players: • Randy Schroeder: Quarterback is back, looking to improve on last year's 22 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 passing yards. • Demitri Allison: Senior will be Eagles' top receiver while also helping out at defensive back.

First-year SouthLake Christian head coach Geoff "Bub" O'Donnell hasn't had much of a learning curve since taking over the program, having been the Eagles' offensive coordinator the past two years.

"The transition hasn't really been much about coaching, but learning to be an administrator," he said.

"It's been a challenge, but I knew that coming into it."

Running the same offense that allowed SouthLake Christian to average more than 35 points per game and go 10-2 last season is a boost for the team.

Quarterback Randy Schroeder and all-state receiver Demitri Allison are glad to have a familiar face at the helm of the program after the school's only head coach, Rich Landis, stepped down to take the football job at North Raleigh Christian. And not just because they already know O'Donnell's fast-paced system.

"He's a great coach, a great guy to be around," said Schroeder.

"He was basically my head coach last year ... so having him back is great."

Schroeder and Allison, both seniors, will be the centerpiece of a SouthLake Christian team that will look to get past the state semifinals, where the Eagles have ended their season each of the past two years.

Schroeder, who enters his second year at SouthLake, threw for 1,947 yards and 22 touchdowns last year.

"We throw the ball about 60 percent of the time," said O'Donnell. "If you're going to do that, you're going to need a quarterback who knows the system, makes good decisions and is moldable. That's Randy Schroeder."

Schroeder had a lot of help from Allison, who was his main target with 1,004 yards and 16 scores on 48 receptions last year.

"Demitri is by far the best athlete in this league, bar none," said O'Donnell. "He's an explosive playmaker."

Allison, who has received scholarship offers from Western Carolina and Elon and is getting interest from other Division I schools, could have some of the defensive pressure taken off of him by the Eagles' addition of Caleb Hines, the son of former Duke wide receiver and college football hall-of-famer Clarkson Hines.

"Caleb can jump through the roof," said O'Donnell. "He'll also be a big part of our offense."

But O'Donnell said that his team's success could come down to its running game.

"Most of the time, teams that win championships can run the ball," he said. "If it's third-and-three, they don't have to run a play-action pass, they can run a simple play down the middle and get it. And we've not had that for two years."

Senior Joey Gass, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound running back, should play a key role on that front.

"He's a big, strong kid," said O'Donnell. "We're really going to pound the ball with him. That's going to be a big change from the last two years; we're going to run more."

The coach added that freshman Robert Washington should boost the running game. "He has a 4.6 (40-yard dash) speed, but he can run you over," said O'Donnell. "But he's young, he hasn't even learned the position yet."

The offensive line, which will be led by Thomas Bolen and Kenny Bumgarner, will need to play big to help the running game.

On the other side of the ball, Allison and Andre Diouf, an all-state corner who holds SouthLake Christian's career interception record, will lead the secondary.

Tristan Fogarty, a South Point transfer, should also contribute at defensive back. "You're going to hear his name a lot," said O'Donnell.

The Eagles will have to adjust to losing all-state players Taylor Jurney and Scott Richardson from its front seven.

Bumgarner and Gass will look to fill in that void on the line, while Hough transfer Brian Jones is expected to have an impact at middle linebacker.

O'Donnell has high goals for his team. "I think we're going to be a handful for a lot of teams," said O'Donnell.

But Schroeder doesn't want to get too far ahead. "Even though a state championship would be great, we have to take it one game at a time," he said.

Allison quickly agreed. "We just want to win," said Allison. "And we've got a good chance."

The Eagles will get a chance to do just that when they open their season against Westminster Catawba Aug. 17.


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