Starting from scratch
It's uncharted territory for Dutchtown.
The Griffins are used to entering the season as the prohibitive favorites with a roster overflowing with tested and proven talent, but that isn't the case this year.
Dutchtown will open the season with only four returning starters and missing six players that were talented enough to sign with colleges last fall--including Mississippi State signee Shelby Christy.
But perhaps their greatest loss will be Mason Nickens. Nickens was the Griffins' starting quarterback for the past two seasons and was named first-team All-District 5-5A last year.
"That's huge. It's probably the biggest hole we have to fill," Dutchtown head coach Benny Saia said. "We lost 43 seniors, but that quarterback spot is so vital, and Mason did such a good job at not only playing but leading the team as well."
There is still a competition to see who will succeed Nickens at signal-caller. Senior Patrick Thompson looks to be the lead candidate after being in the program for four years, but Brandt Fritichie has kept himself in the conversation with a solid camp.
One thing that will help the Dutchtown offense will be the two home run threats they will line up on that side of the ball each week.
First-team all-district running back Torrance Mosley and second-team all-district receiver Corey McBride are both fresh off of committing to Arkansas over the summer and now, they look to add explosiveness to a very young and experienced Griffin offense.
"They're two of our four starters coming back," Saia said. "We're hoping we can use their speed to our advantage but it doesn't matter how fast you are, if that offensive line isn't getting the job done, you're going nowhere. The performance of our offensive line is really going to be the key to how successful we are on offense."
Defensively, things look even more uncertain for Dutchtown. One of the plethora of great players the Griffins lost was David Elias--a UL Monroe signee. Anchoring the Dutchtown defensive line, Elias was named District 5-5A Defensive MVP and All-State honorable mention last season.
"We lost our top 14 players on defense. David was one of those players; he was one of the better defenders we've had over the years," Saia said. "I thought our defensive line was the strength of our defense last year and we didn't just lose David, we lost all of the guys around him."
Out of all the new faces we'll see on the Griffin defense this season, Saia thinks Travis Goodman will be their brightest spot on the defensive line. This will be his first year on the varsity squad, but he has impressed Saia so far at camp.
Javad Ben is expected to step in and lead the Dutchtown linebacking core while Justin Reid looks to become the Griffins' lead defensive back.
Though his team may not have the talent and experience of Griffin teams of the past, Saia still has high hopes for his squad due to their intangibles.
"We're going to improve each day and be relentless. What you don't have in the way of experience, you can make up for in all-out hustle," Saia said. "You have to want to be good, be tough, pull together and battle. If they fight and claw, they'll win, and I see that with this group. We don't have a Landon Collins or an Eric Reid on this year's team; when when win, it's going to be a true team effort."
Dutchtown will get their first opportunity to work out some kinks this Friday as they host Higgins for their fall scrimmage. And on Aug. 29, they'll travel to Walker for their jamboree.
Saia just wants his young team to maximize their potential; the rest will take care of itself.
"I just hope we can be as good as we can possibly be," Saia said. "Now, I don't know how good that will be right now, but we'll find out. We're not going to be putting a finished product out on the field in week one. We have to get better every week and hopefully, by the time the end of the season and the playoffs come around, we'll be peaking."