DeRIDDER, La. (KPLC) - 2018 brought the DeRidder Dragons their fourth winning season in the last five years, finishing with 6-5 overall record paired with a first-round playoff appearance. Dragon’s coach Brad Parmley believes last year was a step in the right direction.
“I felt like we got better as the year went on. From week one to getting to the playoffs and playing a good team in Lakeshore. I felt like we got better overall," admitted Parmley. "There were some hit or missed spots on offense and defense, but at the same time, that’s the goal. We want to be at our best when it matters the most.”
Offensively, the Dragons welcome back six starters from a year ago. Gone is three-year starting quarterback Lane Armor, however, KJ Gooden is set to fill his shoes.
“Losing Lane is going to be tough, but the good thing right is that we had KJ last year and he got some experience when Lane went down for a little while last year. We’re excited about KJ," Parmley said. "KJ brings to the table a skill-set that he can create plays. Having experience and him coming back as a junior, we’re expecting big things out of KJ.”
Play-making wide receiver Greg Woodard graduated as well following a 700-yard season. Parmley says he’s looking for guys to step up.
“It starts with KJ sat quarterback. Its going to start and end with him. Running back, we have Jalyn Thurman coming back from last year. He was a defensive back for us last year and got some running back reps at the end and did a great job for us. He’ll be a two-way guy for us, which is tough, but he’s up for the challenge," said Parmley. "Receiver wise we have Ashton Broussard coming back who was a good player for us in the end. We’re hoping to have other guys step up for us.”
On defense, the Dragons are trying to find the right pieces to the puzzle after losing four starters to graduation. DeRidder's experience will lie in the middle as they return three linebackers who all contributed a year ago. The Dragons are expecting linebacker Josiah Henry to lead the defense.
“We have a mike and two types of hybrid linebackers so that we can cover the pass and stop the run,” said Henry.
“We’ve got three linebackers coming back that played a lot of football for us last year. We’ve got a strong safety, down safety guy that started the whole year for us," Parmley said. "The linebacker/safety core right now has the most experience on the defensive side.”
DeRidder does have holes to fill heading into 2019, but the Dragons will live and die by four key principles that they believe will help them reach their goals.
“Four qualities we have: family, heart, discipline, and toughness," Henry said. "We have to make sure we’re on top of every single one of those to get where we want to go.”