- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
By CHARLES RICHARDS
The Paris Wildcats, who open the high school football season at 7:30 p.m. today at home, are pre-season favorite to repeat as district champions, but there are some big rocks in the road along the way.
“You can look at our roster and see 36 seniors, and you think, well, this is an ‘old’ football team with some experience,” Paris head coach Barry Bowman notes.
“It is – on defense. We’ve got eight starters back over there, and probably another five or six that played a ton last year. I feel pretty good about where we are defensively,” Bowman said.
The Wildcats will get its first test tonight against Mount Pleasant, one of three Class 4A schools on Paris’ 2012 non-conference schedule.
“Mount Pleasant may come over here and score 50 on us, but I don’t think that will happen,” he said.
The talented Wildcats’ “Hit Squad” is led by linebackers Jamaal Black (No. 55), Bricky Reed (No. 32), Raheem Palmore (11), and Jordan Williams (44); defensive linemen Sed Ellis (22), Corwin Cary (35) and Felix Cobb (50); cornerbacks Donte Bills (6) and Roger Johnson (No. 5) and safeties Keandre Robinson (2), Jailon Garvin (24) and Traveon Gaines (7).
The Wildcat defense will be tested by wide receiver, K.D. Cannon, who caught 61 passes for 1,004 yards last season – more than Paris’ top two receivers combined. “Supposedly, colleges everywhere are after him,” Bowman said.
Throwing to him will be quarterback Montravius James, whom Bowman describes as “really athletic. He can throw the football, but he will also pull it down and run. He can make things happen, and does.”
The Wildcats’ scheme will be the same as it was last season, both offensively and defensively, Bowman says.
But of the Wildcats’ first 22 on offense – their one and two deep – there are only five kids that played on Friday night last fall, and a couple of them were in back-up roles, Bowman says.
The Wildcats have some skill positions to fill from last season – replacing players like quarterback Corban Taylor, who threw for 1,840 yards and 26 touchdowns; Tevairus Williams, who caught 10 touchdown passes; and Tez Allen, who bolstered the offensive line.
“Now, I didn’t say we don’t have good players on offense. Do I think we have a chance to be good? I certainly do. I like what we have. It’s just that we don’t have much experience on the offensive side right now,” Bowman said.
The starting quarterback is 5-10, 175-pound Dakota Smith (No. 1), who spent the last three years backing up Taylor.
“Dakota is getting better every day,” Bowman said. “When he’s focused on me and focused on what his job is on the play, he’s good. He can do anything. When he starts trying to think about what everybody else is doing, and all that, he gets off the page. Again, there’s no substitute for experience.”
The No. 2 quarterback is 5-9, 175-pound Keandre Robinson, “and I don’t know if he’s ever played it before,” Bowman said. Robinson was a wide receiver last season, catching the game-winner in the district championship game at Atlanta.
“He’s going to play some receiver, too, but he passes the ball well, and he goes sideways as fast as he goes forward, so we’ve got to get him the ball. He allows us the flexibility to do some things, because he’s so talented. There are things in our scheme that fit Keandre, if he’s the quarterback, that we didn’t do last year,” Bowman says.
The coach wants Robinson, as the only two-way player on the team, “fresh on defense. That’s my primary deal. But he’ll play about 60 to 70 percent of the time offensively,” Bowman said.
Both first-team running backs from last season are back – 5-10, 215-pound Quay Scott (No. 33) and 5-7, 160-pound Khalid Williams (No. 23), both seniors. Scott rushed for 661 yards and five touchdowns last year, and Williams ran for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Only one of them will play at a time, since Paris’ offensive scheme employs four receivers.
Bowman rates his receivers as “potentially pretty good.”
“We have a guy that stretches the field vertically – Joe Wallace. He’s 5-10, 155 pounds. He’ll be wearing No. 13 Friday night. We have Quay Henderson (No. 4) who’s a bigger kid, at 6-foot, 180 pounds. Kenny Mason (No. 3, 5-6, 165 pounds) is a returner. He’s come a thousand miles, and he was pretty good last year.” The other starting receiver is a sophomore, 6-1, 170-pound Kadarius Scott (No. 17).
Andrew Dunn, who started at offensive tackle last year, is wearing No. 88 this season and is in on certain formations at H-back, which Bowman describes as a hybrid between tight end and fullback. “There’s some blocking, and there are some routes. He’ll be catching some balls throughout the season. He played receiver as a young player, and he’s so smart we felt like he could do it, and he’s doing a good job.”
The only returning offensive lineman is 5-9, 230-pound Brice Winter (No. 71), at left guard. He’ll be joined on the offensive line by 6-2, 270-pound Isaiah Epperson (No. 70) at left tackle, 5-11, 215-pound Cannon Chadwick (No. 51) at center, 5-10, 275-pound Fred Edwards (No. 62) at right guard, and 5-11, 215-pound Jack Kraft at right tackle.
KICKING GAME — Dakota Smith is the punter, and Victor Guzman (No. 18, 5-7, 160 pounds) is the placekicker. Bowman said he feels good about both. “We have a tremendous deep snapper in Cannon Chadwick. I mean, it’s like a rocket back there.” The problem is, Chadwick hasn’t learned to control the short snaps, and those “are also like a rocket, to somebody on their knee,” Bowman joked. “The ball needs to be on the tee just right. But we’re getting there.” Winter and Dunn have been working some as the snort snapper.
THE SCHEDULE – It’s tougher this year. Class 4A Sulphur Springs is on the schedule again, but Gainesville, Frisco Centennial, Lucas Lovejoy and and Celina from last year have been replaced by Argyle, a Class 3A state finalist last season; Melissa, a Class 2A state champion last season that moved up to 3A this year; and Class 4A teams Mount Pleasant and Denison. “I’m pretty sure that four of those five inside the last five years have either been been to the state semifinals or better. All but Mount Pleasant,” Bowman said. “My fault. I did it. I knew what I was doing, I think. If you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to play the best. Could we potentially be a pretty good football team and not have a very good record after the first five games? Sure. If we stay healthy, it should help us when we play Atlanta on the second Friday in October.”
BACK TO COACHING – Bowman is the quarterbacks coach this season and is loving it. “I’ve always coached quarterbacks, and when I got here a year ago, that was the plan. And then, because of the defensive scheme that I brought with me and the offensive scheme I brought with me, the two coordinators came and approached me. They wanted me to be available to go around to everybody and make sure everything was going all right. I thought about that for a couple of days and decided that was a good idea. So last year I did not specifically coach a position. I’m having a whole lot more fun right now. Last year was probably one of the more difficult years for me personally because of not actually coaching the kids. I felt to some degree a little disconnected, and so it was difficult for me. I’m not disconnected anymore.”
NEW COACHES – Rayce Guess, who has about 25 years of coachng experience, is coaching safeties and special teams, and he’ll also be the boys head track coach in the spring. He coached at Paris High School for a year or two in the early 1990s before going to Denison for about 20 years. He was head coach at Bells last season. Herb Smith was on the coaching staff at Rivercrest last season. His wife is the volleyball coach at Chisum. Smith will be coaching the “rover” outside linebacker players. Jerome Pipkin was at Justiss Elementary last year. “Jerome is my ‘get-back’ coach. If you see me, or any of the other coaches, or any of the kids, out on the field too far, Jerome will be getting me or them to get back, so we don’t get a penalty. And then, if a kid needs to be gotten onto during a game, for whatever reason, Jerome is our emotional guy. He’s going to go get them. He’s going to help us with that, and he is good at that.”
RULES CHANGES – The two biggest changes are player safety issues. Anytime a player’s helmet comes off, and it’s not a situation where a player on the opposing team was flagged for knocking it off, the player who lost his helmet must leave the game for one play. If it’s third and goal with eight seconds left in the game, and the quarterback is stopped at the 1, and his helmet comes off, he can’t be in the game for the next play. The second rule change affects the kickoff. The ball is kicked off from the 40, like before, but except for the kicker, every player on the kicking team must be between the 35 and 40. No more lining up farther back and getting a running start.
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