Expectations are heightened, but many stars from 2017's surprise run have now moved on.

In Guy Mistretta’s first season as head coach, Dutchtown surprised some folks.

Flying under the radar, they pulled off their share of upsets and transformed a 3-7 record to 6-4. They even went on to win a first-round playoff game.

They won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season. Teams now know they’ll be in for a fight when they face the Griffins.

With that comes a great challenge for Dutchtown. Expectations are heightened, but many stars from 2017’s surprise run have now moved on.

The Griffins lost the most pieces on offense.

They return just two players on the offensive line, and they’ll be without a dependable weapon at tight end in Brandon Davies.

All-district running back Brock Beaman is gone, as well as do-it-all wideout Noah Gray. In addition to receiver, Gray also got carries at running back, returned kicks and he even played some quarterback during the latter portion of the year.

Most notably, Dutchtown must replace Ben Mays, an all-district performer that was a two-year starter at quarterback.

Fortunately for the Griffins, replacement Drelon Monroe is not completely inexperienced.

Mays went down with a badly sprained ankle in week nine of 2017. Monroe took over from under center and played for the rest of the season. He was the starter in their playoff victory.

Mistretta has been thrilled with Monroe’s progression over the offseason. He raved about how he performed during the spring.

“Dre’ Monroe has really taken the lead. He’s way ahead of where we expected him to be coming out of last season.” Mistretta said. “Ever since he came back from basketball, he has really taken a leadership role and done everything we’ve asked. He’s teaching the younger kids out there, which is great to see. That’s what you want from your quarterback. We’re happy with his progress.”

Luckily for Monroe, he’ll have a dependable returning target in all-district wide receiver Terry Matthews.

Mistretta expects junior Blayden Louis to step up in the running back spot. He’ll be running behind returning offensive linemen Riley Lawrence and Harley Huang.

The Griffin defense was their strength last season. After giving up at least 34 points in two of their first three games, they surrendered just 14 per contest to close out the regular season.

They will lose Briant Parker from the defensive line and a big-time playmaker in the secondary in Van’Shon Grayson.

However, they return six starters from the unit.

This includes arguably the top cornerback in the parish in Jordan Jackson. Jackson just recently committed to McNeese State.

Mistretta said that they also plan to use the explosive Jackson on offense in 2018.

Returning safeties Lamarcus Jones and Brayden Caskey will join Jackson in the secondary, and Reggie Spears will be back at linebacker.

Mistretta has high hopes for defensive end Hayden Willis. He said that Willis was the leader of their offseason strength program. He “won the competition hands down.”

Dutchtown will also be solid in special teams as they return a first-team All-Parish kicker in Cohen Parent.

Mistretta said that even though his team won’t be as talented as last season, they will be deeper and more disciplined.

“With a junior-laden team, the 2018 Griffins will need to grow up quickly as they gain much-needed experience early in the season,” Mistretta said. “As always, the development of leadership and team chemistry will be important keys to success, and the inexperience of this year’s team magnifies the significance of these much-needed qualities.”

The Griffins had some big wins in 2017. This included an upset over St. Amant—which ended up being the Gators’ lone regular-season loss. Dutchtown also came back from a 24-7 deficit to defeat Slidell in the playoffs.

They’ll try to have the same kind of success in 2018. They host Walker in their season opener on Aug. 31.