Youth will most definitely be served in Sheridan this season.
The young Yellowjackets will need key contributions from underclassmen if they are to put much of a sting in the 7A/6A South Conference. But there will have to be a lot of learning along the way to make that happen, as many sophomores and juniors will see significant playing time.
“We are very, very young and very, very inexperienced,” said coach Louis Campbell, who is entering his fourth season at Sheridan. “We can’t ask too much of them all at once. We’ll be putting in the playbook as the season goes on.
“The biggest thing is, we need to keep them healthy and on the field so they can gain some experience.”
The Yellowjackets went 4-7 last season and have 17 seniors on their 56-man roster, yet there is quite a bit of optimism heading into the 2013 campaign.
“The great thing about youth is that the young guys think they’ll be a great team,” Campbell said. “I think they can be a great team as well. If we can stay healthy, then we have the chance to just get better and better as the season goes on.”
A host of young players will be instrumental in whatever offensive success Sheridan has, as only four returning starters will line up on that side of the ball. Three-year starter Braden Lunday will have his number called quite a bit, as the Yellowjackets’ leading rusher will lead the ground attack. On the offensive line, tackles Dakota Stone and Dallas Jordan, along with Hunter Hughes at guard, will lead the charge up front, as all three juniors started in 2012.
“The strength of our offense will be the offensive line,” Campbell said. “We have the most experience there.
“We don’t have a lot of experience at the skilled positions, and there are no returning starters at receiver.”
A couple of injuries have hampered the offensive line, taking away some experience that group had. That’s just the name of the game sometimes.
“When our starters go down, that just opens an opportunity for someone else to step up,” Campbell said.
A couple of newcomers have been battling for the starting quarterback job: Sophomore Dustin Reeves and junior Brandon Bennett are vying for the spot. That’s just one of the many positions that will have a new face this season.
Campbell said the summer gave the Yellowjackets a chance to teach the new players and help them hone their skills. However, there’s not a better teacher than real-live action, which is an atmosphere in which the Sheridan coach is anxious to see how his young team performs.
Youth is even more evident on the defensive side of the ball. The 2013 Yellowjackets will feature three new linemen and linebackers, and three of the four positions in the secondary will have newcomers.
Junior Daniel Jones returns at defensive tackle. Senior Cody Thompson, who may also play receiver some, is the lone returning starter in the secondary.
“A lot of guys will have to start before they are really ready,” Campbell said. “That’s OK, though. They’ll gain some valuable experience and get their feet dirty early.”
Needless to say, there are plenty of unknowns about these Yellowjackets, as much will not be revealed until the season unfolds. Stout competition within the conference could prove beneficial, especially later on, as the team develops.
“Competition makes you better,” Campbell said. “We’ll have plenty of good competition. That will help us get better down the road.”
Campbell pointed to teams like Pine Bluff, El Dorado, Lake Hamilton and Texarkana as teams to beat in the conference. Regardless of the opponent, though, the mission remains the same.
“Our biggest thing is, we’ve got to stay healthy,” Campbell said. “We don’t have a whole lot of depth, but we have some good players at these spots. It may take a little while, but if we work hard and get better every week, we’ll have a good football team out on the field.”