The Langley High Saxons will likely experience growing pains on the football field this fall season. That is quite a change from last year when a more experienced Langley squad, which was expected to have better success, finished with a disappointing 5-5 record, thanks to the combination of a tough schedule and several key injuries.
This year’s Langley team, unlike a year ago, is going into the season in more of an underdog role. The young Saxons will be looking to exceed expectations.
“It’s going to probably be the youngest group I’ve had as far as experience goes , not counting that first team we had seven years ago,” said Langley veteran head coach John Howerton. “It’s an enthusiastic group, but we don’t have a lot of experience.”
The Saxons return seven starters this season, six of them coming on defense. The strength of the team is likely to be at linebacker position where three talented, fairly seasoned players are back in the fold in seniors Austin Pritchett and Brian Clubb, both inside linebackers, and outside linebacker Joey Kiffe.
Last year, Pritchett was limited to playing in just a few games as a result of a knee injury. But he looks to be in good health for this season. Along with his defensive duties, Pritchett will also play fullback on offense.
“He’s a playmaker on defense,” said Howerton, of Pritchett. “He got hurt [last year] and we dropped off [defensively] after that.”
Clubb started three games as a junior in ’08. Meanwhile, the rangy, tall Kiffe (6-4), will bring speed to both outside linebacker and on offense at tightend.
“The linebackers should be as good as anybody has,” said Howerton. “They are three of the best players on the team.”
Other key members of Langley’s defense will include tackle Tate Besougloff and Rikhi Chadhry (end). Both will also be key members of the offensive line.
RUNNING THE OFFENSE this season will be quarterback Braden Anderson, a 6-foot-3 inch signal caller who started at the position on the JV last year. Fellow 11th grader Nick Amano-Dolan, a talented ball carrier whose throwing arm has shown improvement throughout the preseason, has also been impressive at QB. It looks as if Langley should prove to be solid at the critical position.
Howerton believes the Saxons will be able to throw successfully. Langley, over the years, has prided itself on an in-the-trenches running attack, fueled by outstanding line play up front. Last year, Howerton wanted to also utilize his team’s air potential more with talented quarterback Danny Pritchett, who graduated last spring, behind the center.
But Pritchett missed four games over the middle of the season because of injuries. He still finished the season throwing for 1,200 yards despite playing in only six games.
Langley also ran the ball well last year, behind since-graduated running back David Helmer, who finished with 1,075 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Langley had a solid, experienced offensive line in ’08 and had outstanding skill position players in Pritchett at QB and Helmer in the backfield. But in the end, the team’s injury struggles helped prevent the Saxons from finishing over .500 and qualifying for the Div. 6 playoffs.
Howerton is hoping this year’s Langley’s offense can produce both on the ground and in the air like it did last year.
“We have more skill kids than we normally do,” said the coach. “We’re going to try to throw the ball 50 percent.”
A Langley player to watch this season will be sophomore Marcus Harvey, the son of former Redskins player Ken Harvey who will start at safety on defense and see time at running back as well.
“He can really run and he’s the fastest kid we have,” said Howerton, of Harvey.
Other key players this season will include senior running back James McMichael, a transfer student from Potomac School; senior cornerback and running back Abe Yi, who was injured last year; talented junior kicker Farhan Khan, who will handle all the kicking duties and could be utilized as full-time punter as well; senior guard Ben Johnson; and senior receiver/defensive back Jack Curry. Coach Howerton has a freshmen son, Jack, who could see varsity backup time at center.
LANGLEY will get a huge, week one test this Friday night when it opens the season against Lake Braddock, expected to be one of the better teams in the Northern Region this fall. Game time is 7:30 at Langley.
Lake Braddock head coach Jim Poythress and Howerton are good friends and former assistant coaches together at West Potomac High School. They are also former teammates at the old Fort Hunt High School in the Mount Vernon area. Howerton knows Poythress will have the Bruins ready to play.
“Lake Braddock has a pretty good group,” said Howerton. “It’s going to be a tough game.