Young Griffin squad has been stepping up this spring
Thursday marks the end of what head coach Guy Mistretta has described a “successful” spring for his Dutchtown football team.
He said that things were much smoother this year, after a bit of a chaotic 2017 spring session.
Last March, longtime head coach Benny Saia resigned. A month later, Mistretta was hired as the Griffins’ new head coach.
With the spring right around the corner, he had to scramble to put together a coaching staff. By the time spring practice began, much of Mistretta’s time was spent just getting to know his new players.
The 2018 spring has been much different. Mistretta said that his team was able to have a complete offseason this time around, and the spring has been very productive.
“The competition is something that we need, being that we’re a young group. We’re a more mentally and physically stronger team because of having that whole offseason together,” Mistretta said. “We’re more disciplined, and we’re going to have to be, because we’re not necessarily a more talented team.
“We do have some talent, but they’re inexperienced. We’ll have to build that experience through the early part of the season. I think we’ll get better as the year goes on.”
The Griffins had a tremendous turnaround season in Mistretta’s first year. They went from 3-7 to 6-4, and not only returned to the postseason, but they won a first-round playoff game.
Although, many of the senior leaders that fueled that team have moved on—guys like receiver Noah Gray, running back Brock Beaman, offensive lineman Noah Pitre, defensive back Van’Shon Grayson and defensive lineman Briant Parker.
Another key component that will be missing in 2018 is starting quarterback Ben Mays, who was an all-district player this past season.
The offense will now belong to senior Drelone Monroe.
Monroe does have experience. He filled in for Mays at the end of last year, after Mays went down with a season-ending injury.
Mistretta said that Monroe has made huge strides over the offseason.
“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.”
Mistretta said that there is still a three-man competition going on for the backup QB spot.
Other than Monroe, there have been some other players that have stood out to the second-year head coach.
Brayden Louis has emerged as their top running back, and receivers Terry Matthews and Dajan Watkins have both looked explosive.
On defense, he said cornerback Justin Jackson has garnered plenty of attention from college scouts, and like last season, he plans to use Jackson on offense as well.
He said Hayden Willis will transition from nose guard to linebacker and defensive end. “He was the leader of our offseason program. He won the competition hands down,” Mistretta said.
He added that there are many open competitions still going on for starting spots.
“We might not be as talented of a group as last year, but we will have more depth,” Mistretta said. “There are a lot of guys fighting for positions across the board. We don’t have many positions that are sold right now. That wasn’t the case last spring. Last spring, we had a good nucleus of guys that were starters from day one. This year, we have guys competing, which actually builds depth.”
Mistretta’s happy with the work his team has put in this offseason, but he’d still like to see more as they head into 2018.
“We only have four starters on each side of the ball returning, so it’s not about what we did last year. Although, I think the program has taken a couple of steps forward,” Mistretta said. “We’re happy with the work ethic and work they’ve done. Now, we’re looking for more leaders, and they don’t necessarily have to be seniors. We have talented junior and sophomore classes. There’s no reason those guys can’t step up and be leaders.”