Senior QB Dallas Margeson, left, hands the ball off during a recent Deerfield practice. Margeson started as a junior and passed for 1,231 yards and 11 touchdowns, while only throwing five picks. (email@example.com)
Counting down to kickoff
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s in-depth look at DEERFIELD and TERRELL ACADEMY marks the seventh and eighth of 26 prep football season previews that will appear in the sports section during the next two weeks as we count down to Kickoff 2012. On Monday, we’ll take a closer look at SHERWOOD. Enjoy!
ALBANY — The reminders were everywhere, hanging on signs in the weight room.
But no one at Deerfield-Windsor needed to read the score or the results of last year’s GISA Class AAA state semifinal loss to Stratford Academy.
“It was all over the board in the weight room, everywhere,’’ said Westin King, a senior who starts on both sides of the line for the Knights. “It made you think about it, but it’s not like we were going to forget it. Obviously, it was disappointing. We haven’t forgotten.’’
It still burns — even now.
“I’ll never forget that fourth-quarter drive they had against us,’’ said Patrick Forrestal, a three-year starter on the line. “I thought we were going to beat them.’’
Don’t blame the DWS kids for thinking that way.
The bar is always set pretty high for the Knights, who had played in the state title game three consecutive years, winning it all in 2008 and 2010, before falling in the semifinals last year.
“We want to get back to the state title game this year and win it,’’ King said.
Forrestal was even more emphatic.
“There’s not another option,’’ he said.
That’s life at Deerfield, where the Knights open the season with visions of winning another state crown. Why not? It’s expected around Nottingham Way.
“Our goal here is we want to play in that last game,’’ DWS coach Allen Lowe said. “You can say we got spoiled, and we did. There’s nothing wrong with high expectations. It makes you better prepare yourself.’’
There are plenty of reasons to believe the Knights can get back to the title game, ranging from Forrestal, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive tackle, to Kh’Ron McClain, who stands 5-10 and weighs 170.
McClain might just be the most electric player in all of the GISA this season.
“He’s got a chance to be the most special player we’ve had since Tony Zenon,’’ Lowe said.
Of course, Zenon ran circles around GISA teams, won The Herald’s John Reynolds Player of the Year Award in 2010 and is now playing at Georgia Tech.
McClain may be running in Zenon’s shadow, but he has breakaway speed and the moves to get to his own daylight.
“He’s got great acceleration,’’ Lowe said. “He’s got a gear you don’t see too many times. We feel he needs to touch the ball 15 to 20 times a game.’’
McClain, who has been clocked at 4.5 in the 40 and as quick as 4.41 on one occasion, went to DWS as a freshman, moved away and returned last year to join the football team as a junior. Even after missing a year from the program, McClain rushed for 427 yards on 56 carries (7.62 yards per carry) and scored seven touchdowns in 2011. He was also Deerfield’s leading receiver with 18 receptions for 394 yards and four TDs.
He’s one of those tailbacks who is fun to watch.
“He’s so quick it’s crazy,’’ Forrestal said. “I’m amazed by his quickness. His instincts are through the roof. He had a great season, but he will be even better this year.’’
McClain is even a threat to score on defense, where as a defensive back he had seven interceptions last season and returned two for touchdowns. He also had 238 yards in kickoff returns, doing a little of everything for the Knights.
He is expected to do a lot more as senior.
“I don’t see it as pressure. You play for that pressure,’’ McClain said. “I don’t see that it’s all on me. I’m standing there with 10 other guys. It’s all about what the team does, and there are 11 guys on the team.’’
He does expect to win.
“Everyone remembers (the state semifinal loss),’’ he said. “We all felt that same pain. We need a state championship to wash it away. We all have the same hunger.’’
The Knights also bring back an experienced quarterback in Dallas Margeson, who started as a junior and completed 78 of 150 passes for 1,231 yards and 11 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions.
Margeson has emerged as a leader of his team, just the kind of player you want in a storm.
“Dallas had a great year, and we expect him to take it up a notch this year,’’ Lowe said. “He passes well, and he can run the ball. He’s the leader out there. He understands what I’m thinking, and he’s the kind of kid who doesn’t get rattled and stays calm.’’
The players look to Margeson — and they like what they see.
“He’s our man,’’ King said. “He’s showing a lot more confidence this year. A year makes a lot of difference.’’
DWS’ top two receivers are also back. Rich Fallaw (6-0, 185), who caught 21 passes for 330 yards, and Davis Hines (6-0, 185), who had eight receptions for 135 yards, are both seniors.
Forrestal and King (6-3, 225) anchor the line at the tackle spots, along with senior guard David Cheshire (5-9, 195) as all three return as starters. Fazel Ahsan, a 5-11, 170-pound junior, and Davis Gill, a 6-0, 220-pound junior, are first-time starters, but Lowe believes both will have big years, and senior Sam Shellhaas (6-2, 200) will line up at tight end.
“I love my offensive line,’’ McClain said.
They like each other enough to dub themselves “The Brick Squad.’’ Two years ago when DWS went 13-0, Lowe used two sets of offensive linemen he called “Thunder and Lightning.’’
“We were lightning,’’ Forrestal said of himself and King, who played as sophomores in the rotation that wore opponents out.
Now they’re the two biggest bricks in the wall.
Forrestal has had looks from several Division I schools, including an offer from Navy. Lowe said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the giant scholar end up at an Ivy League school. He will play on both lines along with King, who is also a pitcher and first baseman and one of the top baseball players in GISA who also starts on the basketball team.
The Knights return a ton of experience on defense, especially in the secondary, where McClain and Margeson are back along with Ke’Marvin Pitts (5-7, 160), a senior defensive back who Lowe says “can fly.’’ Pitts will also see some time at running back.
The Knights lost two key linebackers in Quentin Heard and Gaughf Ivey, but they return two starters at linebacker in Nick Michas and Noah Horton, and Matthew Fox is back at defensive end after a remarkable season as a sophomore. Fox (6-3, 200) had 10 1/2 sacks, blocked two kicks and had a fumble recovery.
“We have a group of guys who know what they’re doing,’’ Lowe said of his defense. “We’ve got a good bit of experience there.’’
DWS had to say goodbye to kicker Trey Puckett, who was an All-State kicker and Herald All-Area kicker for the last two years, but Lowe feels good about his replacement, Harry Villdibill, a sophomore who has 40-yard range. Margeson will probably do the punting, giving DWS a threat to pass or run with every punt.
“We’ve got some question marks, but we’ve got a chance to be good,’’ said Lowe, who is in his 20th season at Deerfield. “Every team is different, but the expectations are the same.’’
Deerfield’s 2012 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Allen Lowe (20th season at Deerfield — 148-78-4 record — and 26th overall as head coach — 195-100-4 overall).
2011 RECORD: 10-3.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Rod Murray (defensive coordinator); Craig Rhodes (DBs); Hollis Hood (OL); David Peacock (DL); Kyle Belcher (special teams).
RETURNING STARTERS: Dallas Margeson (Sr., QB/DB); Rich Fallaw (Sr., WR); Sam Shellhaas (Sr., TE); Noah Horton (Sr., FB); Westin King (Sr., OL); Patrick Forrestal (Sr., OL); Daniel Cheshire (Sr., OL); Matthew Fox (Jr., DE); Nick Michas (Jr., LB); Kh’Ron McClain (Sr., RB/WR); Ke’Marvin Pitts (Sr., RB/DB); Davis Hines (Sr., WR).
PLAYERS IN COLLEGE OR HIGHER: Tony Zenon (So., RB, Georgia Tech).
2012 Deerfield Knights’ schedule
Friday at SGA, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 at North Florida Christian (Tallahassee), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 vs. Mount de Sales, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 vs. Stratford Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Tattnall Square, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 vs. Sherwood Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Bulloch Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 vs. Westfield, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Pinewood Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 vs. Tiftarea, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Southland Academy, 7:30 p.m.
--- BOLD denotes GISA Region 2-AAA game