Green Hope’s senior class will have a special bond this year almost every time the Falcons snap the ball. All 11 projected starters on offense are seniors – seniors who have never seen Green Hope (10-3, 6-1) miss the football playoffs.
Their experience varies, however.
“We are as talented or more talented than last year with these 22 kids who will be playing offense and defense,” coach Kwame Dixon said. “We’re probably more talented than we’ve ever been, but we’re probably as inexperienced as we’ve been since I’ve been at Green Hope.”
The offensive line is stacked with varsity veterans – like Keanu Gonzales, Grant Pacanovsky and Hudson Ressler – and top playmaker Bryce Dixon, an N.C. State recruit, is in his fourth year with the team.
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Yet quarterback will be manned by Tucker Burkinshaw, a lacrosse standout who threw just three passes last year and played mostly receiver, and baseball standout Trevor Losito will start at running back in his first football season.
“Tucker is an athletic quarterback; he does have the ability to run as part of an arsenal. We’ve had to tailor down some of our passing game but beef up some of our running game because he is an athlete,” Dixon said. “Trevor is extremely fast – probably one of the fastest kids on our team – but is new to high school football. We’re glad he came out for his senior year because he’s done a good job up to this point.”
Bryce Dixon, son of coach Dixon, has a few new roles after bulking up to 225 pounds. He’ll play H-back, his projected position with the Wolfpack, and other positions on offense. He’ll also start at safety with fellow receiver Conner Redick.
The younger Dixon “can basically be anywhere (on offense) – in the backfield, in the slot, on the line as a tight end,” Dixon said. “It just eliminates teams knowing that for the most part he’ll be in the slot.”
Special teams are in good hands with all-conference kicker Nolan Paussa while the defense should be strong despite having to replace all three defensive linemen. Linebacker Ryan Whittelsey was the team’s leading tackler.
“We need the defense to be the strongest of the units until the offense can catch up,” Dixon said.
Contributors: QB Tucker Burkinshaw; RB Trevor Losito; ATH Bryce Dixon; WR/S Conner Redick; WR Jack McAuly; OL Keanu Gonzales; OL Grant Pacanovsky; OL Hudson Ressler; LB Ryan Whittelsey; LB Sean Kelly; DB Ryan Sollod; DB Tom Zemonek; K/P Nolan Paussa.
Expected team strength: Offensive line.
Question mark: Secondary.
Players they’ll miss the most: ATH Ridge Ford and QB Luke Massei. The running back/free safety who transferred to Hillside was the SWAC’s only returning three-time all-conference pick. Massei threw 466 passes last year, completing 249 for 3,218 yards.
The main number: 4 – Out of 11 senior starters on offense, just four of them are returning starters.
The quote: Coach Dixon: “The overall goal hasn’t changed. Our goal is to win a conference championship.”
Game to watch: Sept. 4 vs. Cardinal Gibbons. The two nonconference rivals have played to a 24-23 Green Hope win and 14-12 Gibbons victory in the last two years. This series was agreed to before the SWAC bylaw that prohibits games against Gibbons, so the two are scheduled to play next year as well.
Past five years
2014: 10-3 (6-1), 4AA second round
2013: 5-7 (2-5), 4AA first round
2012: 6-6 (4-4), 4AA first round
2011: 2-9 (0-8)
2010: 0-11 (0-8)