There is both new and old this fall in the land of the Comets.
Clayton will debut a new offense this season, switching to the spread after decades as a ground and pound machine. But the Comets, coming off of a 7-5 season in their first season under Randy Pinkowski, should still feature a potent running attack and a defense that could be among the area’s best.
Clayton returns 10 starters, six of those on the offensive unit, which has transitioned to the spread after running the wing-T for several seasons.
Senior Eric Hoy makes the move from slot back and receiver to quarterback a season after compiling more than 1,800 all-purpose yards. He’ll eventually line up with returning 1,000-yard back Rodney Rowe beside him and returning junior Blake Joyner somewhere at receiver or in the backfield. Rowe will miss some time early in the season after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason.
“We feel like we’ve got three super athletes to spread out and get the ball to,” Pinkowski said of Hoy, Rowe and Joyner. “We’re going to take advantage of the space that’s available. With this group, we’re more athletic and want to get our guys out in space with the ball.”
That will likely mean throwing the ball more with Hoy, who despite his 5-foot-9 frame, is one of the best passers of the ball Pinkowski said he has worked with in his 25 years of coaching.
Pinkowski expects senior Raheem Parker (6-1, 240) to play an important role as both a tight end and as a flex back. Junior Joseph Whittington is set to be the backup quarterback. Sophomore Corbin Northern could see more time in the backfield with Rowe’s injury.
The Comet offensive line will be led by returning starters Brooks Verona, a junior center, and guard Will Lovett, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound senior. They’ll likely be joined by a mix that includes sophomore Dillon Carter (6-4, 300), Long Island transfer Andrew Duffy, Adonis Kenzie (6-1, 302), Rodney Rowe, Cole Fitzsimmons and Aaron Boykin.
“It’s an interesting mix of youth and experience,” Pinkowski said. “I really like our potential on the line. It’s a good-sized offensive line.”
The Clayton defensive unit has the other trait teams desire: speed.
“They can run,” Pinkowski said. “They’re fast, fast, fast.”
Iztake Flores, Tyler Sanchez and Dillon Carter will line up at defensive tackle and the defensive end rotation includes Lamont Robertson, Mason Schiefelbein, Ethan Banks and Christian Gaskins.
“We want to be a stop the run first team,” Pinkowski said. “Right now, our D-line has a tendency to get too far up the field, in a rush the passer mode. They need more reps to learn to play the run better.”
Starters Kyle Gleisner and Jordan Smith are back at the safety positions with James Howard, Kevonte Holder and Northern in the mix at defensive back.
The linebacking corps include Seth Brendle, Kyron Bennett, Cameron Reynolds, Michael Kwiatkowski and Reggie Harper.
“We’re really fast at linebacker, big up front and tall in the secondary,” Pinkowski said. “So we should be able to be to do a better job of sealing up passing seams to some extent. Teams may have to throw over us more than other teams.”