Football Preview: Lafayette Sits Atop Wide Open Bay Rivers District

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Cheyton Pine committed to the University of Pittsburgh Monday night. (submitted photo)
Lafayette’s Cheyton Pine will be one of the premier players in the Bay Rivers District this season. (Submitted)

The Historic Triangle experienced varying levels of football success last season.

While the Lafayette Rams came up six points shy of winning a state championship, the Jamestown Eagles went winless during their 2014 campaign.

Lafayette and Jamestown covered the extremes, and teams like Grafton, Tabb, York and Warhill filled the gaps in between.

Lafayette still appears to be the team to beat in the Bay Rivers District, though the Rams will face a much tougher road in the postseason after moving up to Group 4A. Conversely, Tabb has switched from Group 4A to Group 3A and could reap the rewards of the move.

Outside of Lafayette, the Bay Rivers District appears to be wide open and ripe for upsets during the regular season. Teams like Grafton and York have the potential and talent to play spoiler for some of the top teams in the district.

Multiple Historic Triangle football players appear Division I-bound with Football Bowl Subdivision teams offering scholarships and receiving verbal commitments from local players.

Lafayette’s Cheyton Pine and Trey Neville are two of these players who have already committed to FBS programs, while York defensive end Darius Reynolds is expected to join them after receiving plenty of interest during the offseason.

With so much talent sitting on Historic Triangle football rosters, this year’s Bay Rivers District slate should be an exciting one.

Below are previews for all Historic Triangle football teams:

Group 4A
Grafton

Head Coach: Matt McLeod
2015 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2014 Record: 6-5
Players to Watch: DJ Dobbins (senior – QB), Julian Miller (senior – OL), Reed King (senior – P/K), Ray Gonzalez (junior – DE), Trevaun Walker (senior – RB), Tavaris Noel (junior – WR)

Season Outlook: Grafton is pleased to return its starting quarterback Dobbins, who missed most of last year’s 6-5 season after breaking his collarbone during a week seven game against York. McLeod said his senior quarterback is playing better than he was last season before he was injured, which bodes well for the Clippers. Dobbins can feel secure in the pocket, thanks to three returning starters along the offensive line including Miller, a senior leader. With playmakers at the skill positions such Trevaun Walker at running back and Tavaris Noel at wide receiver, the Clippers should be able to keep pace with most Bay Rivers District offenses. One of the biggest weapons for Grafton is first-team All-State kicker King. If the Grafton offense can get to about the 30-yard line, the Clippers should have chances to get on the board thanks to King’s leg. This ability to score from range could make Grafton a dangerous team in district play.

Lafayette

Head Coach: Andy Linn
2015 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2014 Record: 14-1
Players to Watch: Cheyton Pine (senior – OLB), Trey Neville (senior – DE), Joe Kraegenbrink (senior – DB), John Douglass (senior – RB)

Season Outlook: Lafayette’s football team is carrying the weight of its 25-19 loss to Magna Vista during last year’s Group 3A state championship game heading into this season. With a group of talented, Football Bowl Subdivision-bound seniors on this year’s roster, the Rams are prepared to make a deep run in the playoffs despite moving up to Group 4A. Lafayette’s defense will be a force to be reckoned with thanks to the pass-rushing efforts of Pine and Neville, both of whom have committed to FBS programs in Pittsburgh and Navy, respectively. Kraegenbrink, a versatile defensive back, will hold down the secondary by filling in at safety and cornerback. On offense, the Rams will lean on Douglass, a second-team All-State running back who rushed for 1,743 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. Lafayette also returns second-team All-State linebacker Liam Walters and big-bodied defensive back Tyrek Graham, who has received interest from FBS programs. On paper, there is no reason Lafayette should not win the Bay Rivers District this year and make another postseason run.

Jamestown

Head Coach: Donnell Brown
2015 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2014 Record: 0-10
Players to Watch: Mark Lipscomb (senior – RB), Russell Schugeld (junior – T), Zach Pennycuff (junior – S), Demarjia Lewis (junior – LB)

Season Outlook: During his first year on the job at Jamestown, Brown said he is trying to avoid setting expectations because he believes it limits his players. It could also be partly because Jamestown is coming off a 0-10 season in which the Eagles were outscored 455-46. While Brown said he expects to lean on younger players such as freshman defensive end Luke Wilder and sophomore running back Tyler Highley, he believes Jamestown has enough talent across the board to be more competitive than last season. Led by key offensive lineman Schugeld, who stands an imposing 6-foot-1, 290 pounds, the Eagles should have a stronger rushing attack led by Lipscomb. While Jamestown will not compete for a state title in 2015, the Eagles should be improved from last year.

Group 3A
Warhill

Head Coach: Thad Wheeler
2015 Classification: 3A Conference 25
2014 Record: 3-7
Players to Watch: Collin Bright (senior – RB), Bryson Dannewitz (senior – LB), Trevon Loftin (junior – RB), Bryce Koob (junior – LB)

Season Outlook: After a 3-7 season, Wheeler expects to see improvement this year thanks to a solid defense and a three-headed rushing attack. The three Warhill running backs – Bright, Loftin and Koob – could very well be the best group of running backs in the Bay Rivers District this year. Koob also doubles as an impact linebacker and was recognized for his play on defense last season with second-team All-Conference honors. Dannewitz, who played quarterback for the Lions last year, joins Koob as one of the defensive anchors and is a major asset when defending both the pass and run. The Lions should be an improved team in 2015 and could compete for a playoff spot if they can improve tackling on defense and play assignment football. If one group struggles, however, Wheeler expects his team to fill in the gaps with a “next man up” mentality.

Tabb

Head Coach: Matt Lawson
2015 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2014 Record: 7-4
Players to Watch: Nick Hunter (senior – RB), Zach Schiele (senior – TE), Rodney Haggins (junior – RB), Matthew Hermann (senior – OL)

Season Outlook: Coming off an opening-round loss during the 4A South playoffs, the Tigers face a rebuilding project on the defensive side of the ball. Lawson said the Tigers are replacing nine starters from last year’s team, including the entire defensive line and linebacking corps. In order to make up for a learning curve on defense, the Tigers will need to learn on their solid running game to control the clock and put up points. Led by Hunter and Haggins, Tabb has two very different backs with which to work. Hunter, a senior, is a taller back who can fall forward for guaranteed yards, while Haggins is a speedier back who does not shy away from contact. The Tigers also have a well-rounded special teams unit that is led by kicker Stanley Henderson, who can connect on 40-yard field goals. The Tigers should remain competitive in most games if their inexperienced defense can keep them in games.

York

Head Coach: Doug Pereira
2015 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2014 Record: 7-5
Players to Watch: Darius Reynolds (senior – DE), Luke Gilbert (senior – WR/DE), Devin Campbell (senior – RB), JayVon Rush (senior – OL/DL)

Season Outlook: After ending last season with a 37-13 loss to Loudoun County in the 3A East playoffs, York hopes to make a deeper run this year thanks to a strong defensive line. Led by Reynolds, a first-team All-Region defensive end whom Pereira called “the best defensive lineman in the region, hands down,” the Falcons will have a vicious pass rush that is expected to cause plenty of havoc. Things are a little more uncertain moving toward the back end of the defense, however. During the offseason, Pereira had to break in a completely new defensive backfield, though he said the group is developing ahead of schedule. On offense, York will be led by Gilbert, a first-team All-Conference wideout last year. With size and experience along the offensive line, Pereira expects to be able to move the ball enough to stay competitive in games. If York can overcome youth in the secondary and get solid play from second-year quarterback Cole Lytle, the Falcons should be poised for another postseason run. 

Group 2A
Bruton

Head Coach: Reggie Jones
2015 Classification: 2A Conference 33
2014 Record: 2-9
Players to Watch: Greg Dockery (junior – QB), Daniel Jones (senior – Ath), Jalen Carr (senior – WR/CB), Danjie Taylor (senior – HB/CB)

Season Outlook: Though last season ended with a disappointing 2-9 record, the Bruton football team is hoping to use experience at the skill positions to produce a more explosive offense. A jack of all trades and Richmond football commit, Jones will be called upon to offer big-play potential on offense while lining up at multiple positions on defense. Coach Reggie Jones said Carr and Taylor, both seniors, will be expected to step up and have the ability to break big plays for the offense. Jones said one potential concern could be the offensive line, which will be a largely inexperienced group. If the offensive line can continue improving and gaining confidence, Jones said the group could prove to be a major asset for the team moving forward. Bruton should be improved from last season, but will still likely find themselves toward the bottom of the Bay Rivers District.