Eleventh in a series of DODDS Pacific high school football team previews.
Replacing talent is one thing. Replacing talented players who also served as a team’s leadership core is something else entirely.
That’s the job facing Fred Bales, the longtime coach of defending Far East Division I champion Kubasaki.
Gone are five players who did the leadership heavy lifting: quarterback DeQuan Alderman, end Kareem Key, fullback-linebacker Tyshon Butler, linebacker Steven Hunt and the Dragons’ leading career rusher in the Far East playoff era, Jarrett Mitchell and his 3,970 yards on 357 carries.
“That gives us a leadership vacuum at eight positions, not just four,” Bales said. “Not just leadership, but their character, they made big plays all over the field.”
Such is life for any high school football program, but especially so in DODDS, where players can leave unexpectedly, as was the case with Alderman and Hunt.
Alderman would have been a senior and starting quarterback. Bales had counted on Hunt as a fullback-middle linebacker. Both transferred, Hunt right after football season, Alderman in June.
“You have new challenges every year; no two years are alike,” Bales said. “You enjoy the kids you have. And we have a chance to be as good as last year as a team, and that’s what we’re working hard to do.”
While the talent and iron will of Butler, Key and Alderman won’t be easy to replace, the Dragons do have an experienced option to fill the shoes of Mitchell.
Senior Winston Maxwell emerges from Mitchell’s shadow and can be as speedy, elusive and hard to bring down as Mitchell, Bales said.
Kubasaki’s line features veterans on both sides of the ball, all seniors: Josh Davis, Christian Fernandez, Josiah Allen and Sho Green, who’ll try to duplicate the play of Key, Bales said.
DeCurtis Davis, a junior, will be handed the keys to the offense; Jacob Green will back him up and also play corner.
The entire receiver corps also left after last season, but Bales says he has some options to fill those shoes in junior transfer Isaiah Johnson and sophomore Javohn Journigan.
Assuming the tackling and blocking are up to snuff by the time Kubasaki plays its season opener Sept. 13 at Nile C. Kinnick, the Dragons could make a deep run at a second straight D-I title, Bales said.
“We have a solid group, willing to sacrifice and work hard,” he said, adding that the players had an excellent offseason workout program. “We’ve always had high expectations over the years. The guys have a championship demeanor. They know how to win.”