Leopards return just six starters from 2017 Division VI playoff team


Leopards return just six starters from 2017 Division VI playoff team

By Dan Hiner

dhiner@vindy.com

Liberty

Liberty football will begin life without star quarterback Dra Rushton when the Leopards travel to Struthers for Week 1.

The Leopards need to fill the void left by the current Youngstown State running back and former Trumbull County Coaches Association Player of the Year.

“Dra was a special player that you get once and a while,” Liberty head coach Chet Allen said. “We just need to make sure every player is ready to step into the limelight.”

Allen called the sport “cylindrical” since he has to basically start with a complete new set of players. The Leopards are returning just three starters on offense and three starters on defense.

“It’s hard to get something that’s gonna stay strong and last forever. It’s something that’s very hard to do with such a small community and such a small program,” Allen said.

OFFENSE

Senior Hamad Alhmeed and freshman Daveyon Williamson are competing for the quarterback job. Alhmeed was Rushton’s backup last season and is expected to get the majority of the snaps.

“If we’re lucky, one of those two will pan out and lead our offense,” Allen said.

Jalen McKinney is returning at running back while Justin Cizmar, Zion Matlock and Kameron Thomas all return at receiver. Migel Burgess will also be a part of the receiving corps after sitting out last season.

The Leopards need to rebuild their offensive line. Junior Simi Moananu is the only returning starter up front.

“We’re gonna have four new faces next to him to get in the way so our backs and our quarterbacks and wideouts can get the ball and go into the end zone,” Allen said. “We’re gonna have to see what we can do.”

DEFENSE

Micah Dukes and Moananu will lead the defensive line while freshman Tremendous Watson will also get time.

The linebackers include Zach Coman and McKinney, but Allen is still looking for a third starting linebacker.

The Leopards need to replace their entire secondary. Matlock, Cizmar, Thomas, Burgess and Alhmeed are all expected to receive time.

“Those five are gonna try to fill out the five defensive back spots,” Allen said. “It’s gonna be fun. I told these kids all summer long ‘you guys are gonna play a lot of downs so you gotta be ready.’”

SPECIAL TEAMS

In addition to playing quarterback and defensive back, Hamad will also be the kicker. Allen is trying to find a backup at the junior varsity level.

Burgess and Thomas will the returners this season.

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