The Bayside Conference's abbreviated football season won't have playoffs, so Colonel Richardson High's football team will not be eyeing a fourth consecutive postseason berth over the next two months.
That doesn't mean James Jackson begins his first year as head coach without aspirations.
“With the group of guys we've got returning from last season I think we can win at least four or five games,” said Jackson, whose team is slated to kick off its seven-game schedule with a 6:30 p.m. contest Friday at Kent County. “We want to finish above .500, but we also want to finish healthy.”
Colonel only has 20 players, but eight more could arrive later this week after grade check, according to Jackson. That added depth will be welcomed, though the Colonels return the bulk of their offensive line from a year ago, when they went 5-4 in the regular season before losing to Fallston in the opening round of the Class 1A playoffs.
Senior Austin Spies (6-foot, 180 pounds) is back at center and is flanked by familiar faces. Senior Geordan Walls (5-10, 180) is at left guard, with classmate Austin Kreiger (6-3, 205) starting at left tackle. Junior Austin Carmean (5-8, 165), who played as a freshman but not last year, starts at right guard, while junior Hunter Wolfe (6-2, 215) is at right tackle. Sophomore Austin Alexander (6-0, 330) could also see time at tackle.
Jackson's also excited with what he's seen from sophomore Will Thomas (5-9, 310) and freshman Brennen Thomas( 5-11, 230), who will see time as backups on the offensive and defensive lines.
“I think they're showing some pretty good progress in practice right now,” Jackson said of the Thomas brothers.
Jackson also has a slew of tight ends he can use in the Colonel's Wing T offense, including seniors Elijah Palmer (5-6, 160) and Zach Stanley (5-6, 160), and juniors Conor Bayer (5-10, 165) and Bryce Lewis (5-10, 175).
Quarterback Jackie Zebron, running backs Mason Lambert and Rakai Jones, and fullback Eli Stull graduated, so the backfield will be inexperienced for the most part with the exception of Cam Errickson. Last year as a sophomore, Errickson flashed his game-breaking abilities in a 44-8 rout of Snow Hill, carrying six times for 180 yards and three touchdowns, and also returned a fumble 52 yards for another score.
Junior Kadin Egbert starts at running back with Errickson, while sophomore Camron Gondeck is at fullback. The three-week preseason has featured a battle at quarterback between sophomore Cam Lake, Zebron's backup in 2019, and junior Zach Robbins, who is up from junior varsity.
Because of its low numbers, Colonel will again have a number of two-way players.
Kreiger and Carmean start at defensive tackle, with Walls playing noseguard. Lewis and Spies set up at outside linebacker, with Errickson, Egbert and Gondeck patrolling the inside backer spots. Lake mans one of the cornerback spots, while Robbins battles fellow junior Jorselen Gabriel for the other cornerback slot. Palmer returns at safety.
Gondeck will also handle the kicking duties Friday, as Colonel's usual placekicker, Will Turner, will miss the game because of Colonel's season-opening soccer game.
“I'm looking for the seniors that were on the team last year, or anybody that was on the team last year, to really step up and fill roles,” Jackson said. “Right now, from what we've seen in practice, a lot of these guys will step up and fill roles. It's all about team right now. It's all about everybody getting better at once.”