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Gaston rebuilds after graduating prolific seniors

Young and inexperienced players will need to step up for the Greyhounds


There was one word that continually came to mind as Reeve Woodward discussed this year’s Gaston football team.

“We’re very green,” Woodward said. “I think we’re going to be pretty good, but we’re just so green.”

Gaston lost a talented senior class that included four-year starters Austin Morey and Jordan DeLay, the latter anchoring both the offensive and defensive lines. With those players gone, as well as all-league standouts Austin Waibel and David Boulanger, the Greyhounds will need to find a new group of leaders to step up.

“The young guys coming up have never done all the thinking,” Woodward explained. “They’ve always relied on the older guys to make all the decisions, so the guys who are juniors and seniors now are going to need to take on more of a leadership role.”

The cupboard is not completely bare in Gaston. Senior Nate Lewis returns as the team’s starting quarterback, while Ian Mann, Dylan Clark and Alex Sweet give the Hounds a set of versatile offensive weapons. Ryan Sweet also returns as Gaston’s primary tailback after tearing his ACL against Amity last year.

“We would have won at least a few more games last year if (Ryan) hadn’t gotten hurt,” Woodward said. “Having him back this year is going to be big for us.”

The fifth-year head coach also noted the maturation of his quarterback, who will be asked to shoulder more responsibility this season.

“Nate has gotten so much better during the offseason and he’s just grown up a lot,” Woodward said.

The three-headed monster of Alex Sweet, Clark and Mann will give opposing defenses fits as long as a new-look offensive line can create running room. Cody Jeffries, Joey Marquardt and Jarad Davis all have starting experience from last year, but Woodward said the single biggest loss for Gaston was the graduation of DeLay.

“We have the potential to be better than we were last year, but we’re missing Jordan,” Woodward said. “The big thing right now is finding the next Jordan DeLay. We need to find the next guy who’s ready to step up and be that dominant force for us on the line.”

The coach did say that he “expects big things” from Davis this year, and Andrew Pence could also blossom into a star on the line.

Defensively, almost everyone will play both ways, with Davis, Pence, Marquardt and Jeffries starting on the line. Ryan Sweet, Mann and Clark will start at linebacker, with Lewis and Alex Sweet at defensive back, along with Nick Steele and Sterling Phillips.

There are bound to be some growing pains this season since Jeffries, Marquardt, Lewis and the Sweet brothers are the only seniors on Gaston’s roster.

“There’s a bunch of young’ins that need to grow up and fill the shoes of those guys who graduated,” Woodward said. “I’m expecting them to get there, it’s just going to take some time.

“I expect us to be a much better team at the end of the season than we are right now. That’s for sure.”

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