When Kwame Dixon first took the job as Green Hope football coach, he told the administration that the Class of 2015 is how he should be measured. If those guys didn’t show steady improvement over four years, he wasn’t the right man for the job.
Those then-freshmen want to leave campus with a playoff win.
Before Dixon’s arrival, just a win – any win – would have sufficed. The program has come a long way.
“The best thing is that they didn’t rest on those laurels,” Dixon said. “Whatever level we’ve reached, they’re ready to make the next step.”
Never miss a local story.
The Falcons went from downtrodden by a 38-game losing streak to a team with a chip on its collective shoulder and unafraid to say how tired it had gotten of having to read about the past.
Now it’s taken the next step. Green Hope (5-7) made its first playoff appearance since 2004 last year and nearly knocked off No. 1 seeded Wakefield, losing 14-13.
“When I first got here it was, ‘Oh, just win a game,’ then it was, ‘OK, let’s make the playoffs.’ and now it’s, ‘Win in the playoffs,’ ” Dixon said, adding that his players have their sights set on a Southwest Wake Athletic 4A Conference title.
Dixon’s spread offense that posted 24.1 points per game last year returns senior quarterback Luke Massei (2,860 yards, 29 touchdowns, 19 interceptions).
Massei was the SWAC’s first-team quarterback after completing 56.3 percent of his throws.
“He knows what everybody’s supposed to do, he knows the reads, where to look pre-snap. He’s just done a tremendous job. I can’t ask for anything more,” Dixon said.
Massei will have some tall targets to throw to. Bryce Dixon (654 yards, 5 TDs), the SWAC’s leading returning receiver, Daniel Gretsch (357 yards, 6 TDs), Javon Galloway and Matt Duckworth are all 6-foot-1 or taller.
The offensive line boasts three returning starters – Tom Fenton, Keanu Gonzales and Grant Pacanovsky. Bryson Longoria, Hudson Ressler and Mike Renard will also see playing time.
All of the running backs graduated.
The Falcons run a 3-4 defense, and coordinator Gilbert Wiggins has the entire secondary – starters and backups – returning.
Junior Ridge Ford, a two-time all-conference player, mans a safety spot along with baseball standout Troy Maslowski, who had three interceptions in a playoff loss at Wakefield.
Kwabena Sarpong returns to the corner position along with Owen Waldron, who coach Dixon says “people continue to try to pick on, and he continues to rise to the occasion.”
The defensive line returns two of three starters: Alex Furnier and Mason Nagel, joining Ahmed Osman. The linebackers will have to be caught up to speed with all four starters having graduated.
Nolan Paussa will do the team’s kicking and punting.