HARROD – The good news is Allen East has put together back-to-back 6-4 seasons.
On the other side, however, is that the nucleus of those talented teams has graduated.
The Mustangs return only seven starters, with only three on offense.
“We’re a new team,” Allen East coach Mike Abbey said. “It’s a definitely a young team. They self-police themselves, but we are definitely inexperienced. There’s a lot of teaching going on, but it’s fun. The kids have fun. .. It is (a very coachable team). There’s not a ton of experience, but there are a lot of people who know our system.’’
Of the three returning starters on offense, two are offensive linemen in guard Trenton Duran (5-10, 210) and sophomore tackle Brennan Davies (6-4, 285).
“He could be a D-I, D-II (college) player,” Abbey said of Davies. “He’s a pretty good wrestler and is a nice looking athlete. He can move.’’
The third returnee on offense is halfback Kyle Nickles, who will see plenty of carries.
Gone is quarterback Spencer Miller, who threw for 1,348 yards and 19 TDs. He also ran for 342 yards and four TDs.
Also gone is wingback/wide receiver Caleb Smelcer, who is now at Capital. He had 46 catches for 919 receiving yards, along with 607 rushing yards. He accounted for 17 TDs.
Taking over at quarterback is sophomore Bryce Belcher, who filled in for an injured Miller in Week 10 last year. He threw for 200-plus yards and two TDs in that game, a loss to Ada.
“He (Belcher) has a nice, solid arm and has nice solid fundamentals,” Abbey said. “He does a decent job of reading defenses and making decisions on the run.
“We’ll be in pistol this year and will be out from under center for the most part. It’s the pistol Wing-T, the hybrid Wing-T.’’
Besides Nickles, others in the halfback, running-game mix are Luke Brown and Jacob Treglia. Kicker Garrett Neth will also see time at halfback.
The fullbacks will be Dustin Rowe and Austin Wireman.
Ben Lawrence will play center after being a part-time player last year.
Lucas Freeman played a lot last year at wide receiver/cornerback. Reid Spencer (6-3, 200) will also start at tight end.
“He’s (Spencer) a nice, big body with good hands,” Abbey said. “It’s going to be nice to have a tight end in the Allen East offense again.’’
Abbey said the key to the offense will be balance.
“We have to be ball control,” he said. “We have to be good both passing and running the ball. We have to be 50-50, 60 (percent run)-40. We need to do both. That’s why we’re stepping back from center a little bit and trying to give our offensive linemen a touch more time, but still be able to run downhill.’’
The defense will line up for defensive coordinator Cam Staley in a 3-5-3 look.
“It’ll be an attacking defense,” Abbey said.
Four starters are back on defense, including three linebackers.
The defensive returnees are tackle Gavin Devier, linebacker Luke Brown, linebacker Spencer and middle linebacker Rowe, who led the team in tackles last year. Rowe also had seven tackles for loss.
Spencer was second in tackles.
The entire secondary needs to be replaced.
Allen East renews its old rivalry with Bath in Week 1.
“The rivalry was awesome and I’ve been here since ’99,’’ Abbey said. “The first 15 years or so, it was a great game. Getting that rivalry going again with the Bath guys I thought it was an easy decision to make.’’