What should have been a big 2015 season for the Spring Hill Raiders never quite materialized.
The Raiders finished the year just 3-7, despite having one of the most recruited quarterbacks in the area in Tylin Oden, who now plays for Rutgers.
New head coach Jay Emmons, who was most recently an assistant at Centennial, steps in this season after Tom Turchetta stepped away from the program at the beginning of 2016. He will be tasked with trying to find a way for the Spring Hill defense to be more successful this season.
While the Raiders’ offense showed flashes of brilliance last year, averaging 30 points per game, they have a lot of replace this season.
With Oden gone, junior running back Dontae Smith will take more control of the offense.
Senior Blake Lovell, who went to Spring Hill for two years before transferring to Centennial last season, is back this year at quarterback, though an official starter at the position has not yet been named.
Whoever is named quarterback will have the luxury of throwing to junior wide receiver Justin Oden, who is currently fielding scholarship offers from Rutgers, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Where the Raiders will benefit greatly on the offensive side of the ball will be up front. All five linemen – headlined by seniors Eston Carlton and Terrell Nunn – return this season.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what an experienced offensive line can do with a talented back,” Emmons said.
Tight end Javari Braden and wide receivers Adrian Cole and Brenon Sanders are also expected to make big contributions this year.
The Spring Hill defense will need to show serious improvement, as it struggled mightily last season.
On the year, their opponents averaged 37.5 points per game, and the Raiders gave up more than 40 points five times.
Emmons will have a trio of seniors – cornerback Jahmal Stelle, defensive end Caleb Tarrence and linebacker Kennedy Ross – to lean on.
Oden should also see time at cornerback for the Raiders.
If the Raiders are going to show improvement from last season, they will have to be better on the defensive side of the ball.
With a new coach and a new system in place, learning and developing experience will be key in the first few weeks of the season.
“We’re looking forward to transitioning and playing great team football,” Emmons said.
If Spring Hill’s defense can show any improvement and its offense behind Smith and Oden can match last year’s pace, the Raiders could potentially find themselves in the upper-echelon of District 4-Class 4A.
The Raiders’ season begins Aug. 19 with a rivalry game at Summit.
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