Prep Preview 2014: Stars' return boosts Jordan hopes
Putting a healthy team on the field for the entire year should give third-year Jordan coach LaDwaun Harrison a better chance to win more than one game in the upcoming season.
The Falcons, who went 1-10 overall and 0-5 in the PAC-6, lost starting quarterback Matthew Gampe for many games last season and were without offensive tackle GrantSwigart, who missed his entire junior season after being injured in a scrimmage.
Harrison said Jordan’s overall depth hobbled the Falcons last season.
“We’re going to be better because we’ve got more players,” Harrison said. “We’ve increased our numbers by 20 or 30 players overall and that’s going to help in so many ways.”
Ideally, Jordan will get through preseason drills, the scrimmages and the opening game without any major injuries, according to Harrison.
“For us to come out injury free will give us some confidence,” Harrison said. “Injuries and lack of depth last season really negated our ability to move the ball and sustain any drives.”
With Gampe entering the season as Jordan’s quarterback, Harrison said the Falcons will be running a traditional pro-style offense.
“He has a good understanding of the offense and what we want to do,” Harrison said. “He stabilizes us on offense. When we lost him early last year, we didn’t have a lot of depth behind him.”
Sophomore Bruce Black will be Gampe’s backup.
At running back, a pair of juniors will get most of the carries — Chris Francis and Maliik Marcin.
“Both have some good varsity experience and we’ll need them to have good seasons,” Harrison said.
Jordan’s top returning receiver is Picasso Keaton, while Victor Serrano will provide another option for Gampe from tight end.
“They’ve worked really hard in the offseason to improve and we’re going to need their leadership,” Harrison said.
Helping Swigart on the line will be center J.J. Cyrique, who will be in his second year as a starter.
Harrison said the other three positions on the line are up for competition.
“It’s good that we’ve got enough depth for some competition on the line,” Harrison said. “We’re going to be young with mostly juniors and sophomores but we’ve finally got some numbers and that will help.”
Defensively, Jordan is going to be young but talented, according to Harrison. He said the defense was on the field too much last season and that should change with a better offensive attack.
“The defense is a little ahead of where we were last year,” Harrison said. “I think our defensive line is going to be our strongest group.”
Harrison said junior defensive tackle Jaquan Evans and sophomore defensive end Andre Purvis have stood out in summer workouts and preseason practices.
“They both have very good size and they are athletic,” Harrison said. “They are the type of players we need up front.”
The linebackers are led by Jordan Vincent in the middle. Vincent was a part-time starter last season as a sophomore. Senior Jordan Simmons will lead a rotation of Falcons on the outside.
Jordan’s defensive backfield is led by Deandre Randerson, whom Harrison said likely will be called on to cover the best receiver from their opponent. Matthew Phillips will line up on the other corner.
Harrison said several players were in battles to start at safety.
Matthew Tilley gets the nod at placekicker.
“He’s got a strong leg and he did a good job for us last year as a freshman,” Harrison said.
The punter likely won’t be determined until just before the season opener, according to Harrison.
The returners also will be determined later, though Francis might be one of the players Harrison will call upon.
“We’re practicing the kicking game every single day,” Harrison said. “It’s that important.”
Harrison said getting off to a good start will mean a lot to his team. Jordan opens its season at Raleigh Leesville Road on Friday night.
“We went 1-10 last season but the guys never quit,” Harrison said. “The guys believe in what we’re doing and they’re excited about helping change the culture of football at Jordan.”
Harrison said improvement has been slow but it has occurred. He acknowledged that the Falcons have a long way to go if they want to catch PAC-6 favorite Hillside, which hasn’t lost to a PAC-6 4-A opponent since 2009.
“Hillside is loaded with talent again,” Harrison said. “Everybody is chasing them. Our team understands that we’re trying to build a program and not just a team.”
Jordan’s schedule will be a challenge, according to Harrison. The Falcons play at Leesville Road, Green Hope and Holly Springs and the home non-conference games are against Raleigh Enloe, the only win from last season, Panther Creek and Southern Pines Pinecrest.
“Our non-conference schedule is always tough,” Harrison said. “But it will help us as we get into the PAC-6, which is usually heavy at the top. We’re playing a lot of teams that made the playoffs last year.”
Jordan’s last trip to the playoffs was in 2010 when the Falcons lost in the first round to Fayetteville 71st.
PREP PREVIEWS 2014: This is one in a series of reports previewing area high school football. The series continues through Friday, opening day of the 2014 season for most high school football teams.