JV play: Mustangs show plenty of positives in turnaround

JV play: Mustangs show plenty of positives in turnaround
October 29
00:00 2015

Above: Parkland’s Brian Hollman (right) gets ready to recover a fumble as teammate Regan Wilkenson (15) watches. (Photos by Craig T. Greenlee)

With two games remaining in this season, Parkland’s junior varsity has yet to crack the .500 mark. That doesn’t mean that the 2015 campaign should be considered a wash. With two more wins, the Mustangs will reach the break-even point.

That’s quite a different scenario from what has happened in recent history. Entering this season, Parkland (now 3-5) had just two victories in the 27 games it had played over the previous three years. If what the JV team has accomplished up to now is any indication, it’s clear that there’s a major football turnaround-taking place.

The up-and-coming Mustangs showed their mettle in last week’s agonizing 22-16 triple-overtime loss to Mount Tabor. In a game that many expected to be a blow-loss for Parkland, coach Lamont Atwater’s crew more than held their own in a fiercely contested game that could have ended in victory instead of defeat.

On a scale of 1-to-10 with 10 being the highest mark, Atwater gives his team a rating of 8 at this juncture. “We’re coming along, he said. “On the other hand, we’re no where near where I thought we’d be at this time.”

Against Mount Tabor, the Mustangs got solid production from their rushing attack with plentyof help coming from linemen Isiah Greene, Taylor Hickman and Blake Schutt. The backfield showcased a nice blend of power and speed with running backs Lee Kpogba, Devon Rucker and Jacque Roseboro.

Of the three, Roseboro is the most elusive when he’s able to operate in space. Kpogba and Rucker are punishing runners who do not shy away from contact. Rucker has better than average speed and Kpogba has that rare combination of brute strength and breakaway speed to go the distance from anywhere on the field.

One feature of Parkland’s offense that’s sure to be refined is its version of the Wildcat formation. In this set, the quarterback comes out of the game and Rucker takes direct snaps from center. It’s pure power football.

At quarterback, starter Tyrone Barber gives Parkland a viable passer who can successfully attack opposing secondaries. But Barber has to stay healthy in order to keep the Mustangs from becoming too dependent on rushing the football. With the threat of a passing game, defenses can’t totally gear their efforts to shutting down the run.

The defense, which has continued to improve, is the prime strength of Atwater’s team. As a group, they played very well against the Spartans in defeat. With Kpogba, Brian Hollman, Andrew Grant and Savion Hayes roaming the secondary, the Mustangs will be difficult to throw on, especially as Sisa Dreher and Archer Smith continue to blossom as fierce pass rushers. Joseph McMillian shows much promise at linebacker.

“At Parkland, we have the players who have the talent and skills and they’re knowledgeable about the game,” said Atwater. “In the past, the difference between us and other schools has been what we have in terms of our weight room. We’ve improved a lot in that area and now, the results are beginning to show.”

Since Parkland’s junior varsity represents its varsity future, there’s every reason to believe and expect that it won’t be too long before the Mustangs return to the prominence they reached in years past. Will that happen overnight? Maybe so, maybe not. In assessing the results so far, it’s most likely that the Mustangs rise to the upper echelons of the Central Piedmont 4-A Conference will happen sooneraz rather than later.

“I won’t say that Parkland is all the way back just yet,” said Coach Tiesuan Brown of Mount Tabor. “But they’re definitely taking the right steps. If teams still feel like they can go to sleep against Parkland, they’re going to find themselves in a lot of trouble.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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