A Fine Line

Ex­pe­ri­ence up front could be key to Lions main­tain­ing win­ning ways

Record Observer - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­dem.com

The of­fen­sive line is a pro­jected strong­point for Queen Anne’s County High’s foot­ball team this sea­son.

But it wasn’t un­til three days ago that the Lions’ start­ing unit ac­tu­ally prac­ticed to­gether for the first time since last sea­son.

“Mon­day when we were do­ing our of­fen­sive part of prac­tice, I think it was Tyler Bon­ner that looked around and said, ‘Man, this ac­tu­ally looks pretty good in here for a change. We’ve got some old faces back,’” Lions head coach Donny Graef said of his of­fen­sive line. “There’s go­ing to be some rust and things and we just have to work through it and keep mov­ing for­ward.”

Now all se­niors, tack­les Kean Shana­han (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) and Trent Riggs (6-3, 225), guards Gar­rett Deese (6-0, 225) and Chuckie Lansinger (5-11, 265), and cen­ter Jor­dan Wa­ters (6-2, 270) have got­ten plenty of play­ing time over the past two years, which ended with the Lions qual­i­fy­ing for Class 2A East Re­gion play­offs.

If Queen Anne’s is to notch a 13th con­sec­u­tive win­ning sea­son and 13th post­sea­son berth in Graef’s 22 years as head coach, a lot will be ex­pected of the sea­soned cast up front, that in­cludes Bon­ner lin­ing up at tight end at times.

“Big­ger, stronger than what they were two years ago,” Graef said of the of­fen­sive front, which will also in­clude at times guards Aaron Rovenolt and Kole Gun­ther, and tight end Jor­dan Ben­nett. “A lot of three-year starters. Just look­ing for­ward to see what they can do. I think as our sea­son goes it will be how well our of­fen­sive line is play­ing as far as our of­fen­sive suc­cess is. It’s go­ing to kind of hinge on that of­fen­sive line.”

One of the first things Graef does ev­ery year in as­sem­bling a team is try­ing to place per­son­nel in the right po­si­tions, based partly on what he’s seen dur­ing sum­mer lift­ing and con­di­tion­ing ses­sions. A good por­tion of that guess­work has been re­moved this pre­sea­son with the re­turn of a large crew of starters from last year’s 7-4 squad, which lost to North Caro­line in the 2A East Re­gion semi­fi­nals.

Among that group are se­nior run­ning backs Jykel Gar­ner and C.J. Rogers, and se­nior full­back Bran­don Hick­man.

“We’re strong at run­ning back,” Graef said.

Though they didn’t get a lot of snaps a year ago as back­ups, Graef also thinks the Lions could be strong at quar­ter­back, where

se­niors Mike D’Angelo and Pat Free­man have bat­tled to suc­ceed the grad­u­ated Tommy Bull.

“I think we’re go­ing to be able to throw the ball bet­ter than what we did last year,” Graef said. “That’s not a slight on Tommy Bull, but Tommy was more or less just an ath­letic run­ning quar­ter­back. I think we’ll be able to throw the ball bet­ter. And I think both these quar­ter­backs also have the abil­ity to run. So it will be a lit­tle bit more of a dual look.”

When D’Angelo and Free­man do throw, Graef thinks they’ll have ca­pa­ble tar­gets.

“I think we’re solid,” Graef said of split ends Wy­att Pin­der and Jor­dan Cal­la­han. “We’ve got kids with good hands. They aren’t speed burn­ers. They aren’t the fastest kids on the team. But throw it their way and we feel com­fort­able that the ball is go­ing to be caught. And they do a good job at block­ing on the perime­ter.”

Queen Anne’s de­fen­sive front could be among the Bay­side Con­fer­ence’s tough­est. Ben­nett starts at nose guard flanked by Deese and Wa­ters at tack­les, with Rovenolt and

Lansinger in re­serve. Bon­ner and Gun­ther are the in­side lineback­ers, while Jor­dan Wilmer and Riggs re­turn as out­side back­ers, with Jack Swee­tak and Noah Evans in backup roles.

If Graef has a con­cern, it could be the sec­ondary, which lacks depth. Rogers and Cal­la­han are at the cor­ners, Mike Mon­roe is at free safety and Chris Crow lines up at strong safety.

“We’re thin in a few po­si­tions, but we might have to kind of piece­meal a cou­ple of things to­gether,” Graef said. “But we’ll make it work some­how.”

Queen Anne’s also re­turns a fa­mil­iar face in the kick­ing game, with Luke Metrinko again han­dling place­kick­ing du­ties.

The Lions have four play­off teams from a year ago on their sched­ule, start­ing with Fri­day’s opener at home against Class 1A Kent County, which has won the last two meet­ings be­tween the two ri­vals, and has ar­guably one of the more daz­zling tal­ents in the state in Mar­c­quan Greene.

“Mar­c­quan Greene had been a thorn in our side for the last two years,” said Graef, who earned his 150th ca­reer vic­tory last sea­son. “I think once we get through the Mar­c­quan show I’ll have a lot bet­ter idea (of what we have).”

PHOTO BY WIL­LIAM HAUFE

Queen Anne’s County’s Tyler Bon­ner (24), Mikey Mon­roe (1) and Jor­dan Wilmer (18) look to make life dif­fi­cult again this sea­son for op­pos­ing of­fenses.

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