Football Preview: Haynes looks to continue winning ways

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The foundation was laid in nice fashion in 2020.

In his first year on the job, Ben Powell guided Haynes Academy to a 4-3 record, though the Yellow Jackets could not participate in the playoffs due to COVID-19 issues.

“Year one was good,” Powell said. “The seniors bought in and were a good group to work with and they laid the foundation. COVID got us at the very end. We rolled right into the offseason and the underclassmen picked up where the seniors left off for us. Our numbers are a little low but not dramatically. We should end up with about 40.”

Haynes loses good players in Ari Currera, Noah Dillings, Riley Westerfield and Robert Westerfield to graduation but there are plenty of returning starters on hand.

Powell will employ a spread attack with multiple formations while going to single wing looks in short yardage and goal line situations.

“We’re going to open it up quite a bit,” Powell said. “Recently, we have really run the ball for five years at Cohen and here. We will run more three and four wide receiver sets.”

There is a close competition at quarterback between senior Joshua Farley and junior Chris Melton. It is possible that both could play.

“When it is done, we’ll have a good signal caller,” Powell said. “They are different players. Farley is more of a traditional pocket passer and makes really good decisions. He has a snappy delivery. Chris probably brings us more of a dual threat guy. He is kind of new to the position, playing defensive back most recently, though he was a quarterback in middle school.”

Offensively, the running back situation looks to be loaded.

Junior Preston Brown (5-8, 180) returns after rushing for 750 yards in 2020 while senior Ashton Clay (5-8, 175) is back after rushing for 400 yards last year. Junior Joshua George (6-1, 190) and senior Jacob Patron (6-0, 195) are good backs as well.

“That is one place we are solid with a ton of experience,” Powell said. “Ashton had some injuries last year and he is healthy now. Preston gives us a good 1-2 punch. We have depth and will be good with zone reads.”

Leading the way at wide receiver is senior Lance Troost (5-10, 175), who returns as a starter.

“We have a freshmen Locklen Claverie (5-10, 180) who has a great future,” Powell said. “He was a big-time player in middle school. Wyatt Clakley is a junior and a solid player as well. Troost is a two-way player for us.”

Up front, Haynes has a pair of two-way starters back in seniors Ethan Juneau (6-0, 265) and sophomore Ben So (6-3, 250).

“Juneau has good size,” Powell said. “He is our anchor. We have a young guy in So who started as a freshman and he has good potential to develop strongly. The rest are new starters. We started a lot of different guys up front last year so we are hoping for more stability. We have six or seven in the mix to fill out the other spots.”

The defense should be the strength of the team.

Up front, Juneau and So lead the way.

“The offensive line and defensive line will share the same players, rotating in and out,” Powell said. “We have to be smart about snap counts.

At linebacker, Clay, Patron and George are top players at linebacker.

“George and Patron are both really good who played outside linebacker last year and they will move inside this year,” Powell said.

In the secondary, Brown returns.

“Eli Patella will be our free safety while Troost will likely be our strong safety,” Powell said. “Brown can play corner or safety. Milton could start on the back-end as well.”

The schedule opens at Springfield and against Grace King. The Yellow Jackets will then host Lusher Charter and Fisher before traveling to Jewel Sumner. A home game with Pope John Paul II and a road trip to Northlake Christian follow.

“I feel like the non-district schedule really favors us,” Powell said. “A lot of it comes down to remaining healthy. I feel the Lusher game will be really interesting. They only played a couple of games last year. We’re not sure what they will have. Fisher will be much improved.”

District 11-3A play opens with a daunting challenge against an elite Division II program in De La Salle on Oct. 22 before the annual Magnet Bowl encounter with Thomas Jefferson at Hoss Memtsas Stadium. Haynes closes at home against Kenner Discovery.

“The league is interesting,” Powell said. “We have two big rivalries now with Thomas Jefferson and Kenner Discovery, a big, growing school. They are going to be very good. De La Salle is top of the entire class in Division II with St. Thomas More. All three games are very tough ones.”

With a year under his belt, Powell has acclimated himself well to Haynes while the players have bought into the system. If the Yellow Jackets can remain healthy with many two-way players, it could be another good season.

“As long as we stay healthy, I feel we will have a really good, competitive squad this year,” Powell said. “I think we can have a team that has the potential to win a playoff team, to have one of the best teams Haynes has had. We all hope to be able to get all 10 games in.”


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