By Josh Vardaman
It was a strange season a year ago for the Fairview Yellowjackets.
After opening with two straight losses, the Yellowjackets rattled off seven wins in their next eight games, including six in a row, to enter the playoffs at a respectable 7-3 and 5-1 in Region. Their only Region 6-3A loss came by just four points to Camden Central, which won the region at 6-0.
Fairview entered its first round playoff game against Stratford averaging 35 points per game, but couldn’t find the end zone against the Spartans. The Yellowjackets’ promising season ended in a disappointing 39-0 fashion.
Coming into the 2016 season, Fairview head coach Chris Hughes is implementing new schemes on offense and defense. His offense has diverted from the spread and will give multiple looks, and the defense has changed from a 4-3 to a 3-4 with the promotion of Ron King to defensive coordinator.
The Yellowjackets return 18 total starters – nine on both offense and defense.
Despite getting shut out in their last game of the season in 2015, the Yellowjackets’ offense was potent for much of the season. They averaged 35 points per game and scored over 40 points five times.
A lot of talent returns from that group, but the biggest hole that will need to be filled comes from the quarterback position. Graduate Hunter Zimmerman led the Fairview attack a season ago under center, throwing for 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns.
If the Yellowjackets are going to try to improve on last season’s success and get back to the playoffs, they will have to lean on solid running back play. Senior Jake Beathard will take more control of the offense, and he will be joined in the multiple-back set by fellow senior Hunter Caldwell and junior Khristian Harris-Lusk.
Fairview’s offensive line will be anchored by senior Daniel Conrad.
King takes over the reins on the Yellowjackets’ defensive front with a new system.
Last season in the 4-3, Fairview gave up 25 points per game. The 3-4 King now has in place should be stocked with plenty of returning talent to make it a successful switch.
Though linebacker and team leader Ben Buttrey is gone from last year’s squad, three linebackers – seniors Sam Sanborn and Josh Ortiz-Derrick and junior Brendan Nardozzi – can step in and wreak havoc out of the four-linebacker set.
With nine players bringing experience back from last year’s starting defense, the switch should not be too difficult for the Yellowjackets.
Fairview may look somewhat different than what fans were accustomed to seeing on the field a year ago, but their results may be much of the same.
With 18 starters returning from a team that finished second in Region 6-3A with a 5-1 record (their only loss came to champion Camden Central 32-28), the Yellowjackets should again compete for the region title.
Their only glaring issue could be replacing Zimmerman at quarterback. However, with the change to a multiple back set and plenty of weapons in the backfield, the impact of his graduation may not be felt as much as it could have been.
The season begins for Fairview with the ‘Battle of 840’ rivalry game at home against Page on Aug. 19. Page got the better of its longtime rival a year ago with a 38-7 win.
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