Photo by John Kozak
Last season, the Danbury Lakers struggled to a 3-7 season, but were quite close to going 5-5, losing two games in gut-wrenching fashion. This year, head coach Bryan Dudash is hoping his offense can continue to put up points and that the defense can improve and hold its opponents in check.
The defense, more than anything, will be instrumental to Danbury’s success this year as the Lakers trying to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference. For the past three years, Danbury has been able to consistently put up points, but it’s been defensively where they’ve struggled.
Head coach Bryan Dudash is confident that his defense will get over the hump and become a more consistent bunch that can hold opposing teams in check. Thus far, he is happy with the job assistant coach Rock Farlow has done in getting the kids to understand their roles within the defense, one that is predicated upon a simpler message this year.
“We’ve never not given up chunks of yardage (before),” Dudash said. “(But now,) we’ve never had so many plays that went negative or for 0 yards. Even some games we’ve won (in the past), we’ve given up chunks of yardage. In the scrimmages (thus far), we’ve had some good defensive performances. I think the main reason is the kids finally understand their role and how important the defense is. It’s about getting the kids to buy into their roles, and making them realize they’re one of 11, and that’s important. I can see improvement, and it can be a dominant defense if we stay healthy. It’s about making a few plays here and there.”
On the defensive line, Shay Rickard, Alex Duez and John Brooks occupy the end positions with Geraldo Salinas and Austin Holmes holding down the fort in the middle.
Taylon Molnar anchors the defense from the strong-side linebacker position with Mike Stys in the middle and Justin Tibbels on the weak side.
Jared Koenig and James Darko are the starting corners and Seth Vargo and Sam Tyson occupy the safety positions.
Make no mistake, it is how this unit plays that will determine the Lakers’ success in 2014.
Offensively, Vargo returns at quarterback and is joined by Molnar and Tyson, who will split time at running back.
The four-wide set includes Dorko, Justin Tibbels, Dylan Harris and Jared Koenig, and John Brooks will see time at both tight end and receiver.
Stys anchors the line at center with Holmes and Logan Kenley at the guard spots and Rickart and Avery Nowak rounding out the line at both tackle positions.
“As much as people think we are an explosive team, we’re more about getting first downs and eating up the clock,” Dudash, now in his third year with the team, said. “We try to pop one, and then go back to grinding. We’re not going for an 80-yard strike. We’re not that type of offense. We grind and it takes perfection.”
A noticeable weakness with the team is its depth. With only 19 players, Danbury will be tested when it comes to durability. And despite the low numbers, Dudash is confident this will be the group that gets the program over the hump.
“We are so close to making strides,” Dudash said. “Their time is coming.”