Sixth in a series of DODDS Pacific high school football team previews.
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – Who can replace the irreplaceable?
That’s the question facing Nile C. Kinnick football, coming off a 2013 season in which three-year starting quarterback Dustin Wilson led the Red Devils to a 5-0 start and their school-first DODDS Japan title before slumping to five losses in their last six games.
Wilson graduated in June. Most all the other components seem to be in place – a large, beefy line; junior running back Dre Paylor, just the second Pacific back to reach 2,000 yards; and a speed receiver in junior Jabari Johnson.
But who will hand the ball to Paylor? And who will toss the ball to Johnson? Coach Dan Joley says he has several options available, and if he had to choose one, it would be senior Kyle O’Brien.
But fellow seniors Greg Bacon, Joshua Thompson and George Calbert have also taken snaps, and Joley says he plans to “change up things” in an effort to protect and keep attention off “the guy with the green shoes,” meaning Paylor.
“To have three or four quarterbacks who each understand the offense, you have no worry if somebody gets hurt,” Joley said. “We can do it with any of those four.”
Still, it will be hard to replicate the synergy that Wilson and Joley shared. Wilson was a quarterback with a high football IQ, ability to read defenses and knew the offense “inside and out,” Joley said.
Not to mention the 840 yards and 22 touchdowns on 140 carries and the 64-of-138 for 960 yards and eight touchdowns he posted last season.
Long before Wilson left, one of his more valued targets, DeAnthony Evans, a wideout and edge pass rusher, transferred from Yokosuka in the middle of last season – one of the major factors in Kinnick going from DODDS Japan champion into a season-ending tailspin.
“He extended defenses and was a deep threat,” Joley said. “(Losing him) took away that threat. His move impacted our defense. He set the tempo for the defense.”
While not as tall as Evans, Johnson possesses the blazing speed that made him a 100-meter runner-up and 200-meter champion at Far East track last spring.
“Lightning fast,” Joley said.
The line is as good as Joley has had in his five years at the helm – not just big, but athletic, who can move their feet and reach the point of attack. “That makes me feel really good about things,” he said.
He feels that the Red Devils have what it takes to become a championship contender, going for their first Far East Division I title, another DODDS Japan title and their first Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools title since 1998.
It will take time to figure out where all the skill pieces fit, “but that we have in many minds the best running back in the Pacific and a solid offensive line makes me feel secure as we arrange the pieces of the puzzle,” Joley said.