For the first time in five seasons, DeRidder enters a new year off a losing record. The Dragons snapped their streak of four straight playoff appearances in 2016. But with a new season, comes new beginnings.
"Everyone is expecting us to go 2-8 and have a bad season. We kind of brush it under the rug," said senior linebacker Nicholas Sanders. "A new season is a new start, and everyone is positive about it and ready to go."
And the Dragons will look for a clean slate in the same district DeRidder won back-to-back titles in, in 2013 and 2014. The new district is Alexandria-based.
That's kind of part of being at DeRidder. This will be my tenth or eleventh year and we have moved districts three or four times," admitted head coach Brad Parmley. "There are a lot of unknowns going into the year, but there's nothing we can change, so we only can worry about us.
The Dragons bring back 11 starters, five of which are on offense. Quarterback Lane Armer returns after a late season emergence that helped revitalize the team. His offensive line returns a core of experience which should help the young QB develop.
"Lane did a great job last year being put into the spot as a sophomore. He came in and did a great job finishing the year out," said Parmley. "He had a great off-season and great summer, and we are expecting big things from Lane."
The Dragons also have a few tricks up their sleeve on offense, with a plan to upgrade the offensive philosophy. DeRidder will still base its offense on the run, but expect to see more three receiver sets, capable of putting the Dragon athletes in space.
"We are all for it," Sanders said. "Everyone talks about DeRidder running the ball, but we're going to spread it open a little bit and it's going to be pretty exciting.
The Dragons are also excited about the group of defenders returning.
Sanders and cornerback D'onte Roshell lead an experienced defense that Coach Parmley believes is strong enough to slow down whatever the district throws at them.
"Anytime the kids have a year or more experience and anytime they have been there done that, it makes the job easier. Whenever you jump in there that first Friday night and the lights are on you and you haven't been there, it's kind of a different situation," Parmley said. "All of a sudden, experience will hopefully pay off for us."
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