North football: Focus shifts to grinding up yards
North had more than 60 players show up for football conditioning this summer, about 50 percent more than coach Kelley Sayahnejad saw in his first two seasons.
It was the best summer in three summers of my tenure, Sayahnejad said. The kids have worked hard to change expectations. I kind of feel like were on an upswing.
More players is a good start. Sayahnejad hopes that leads to better depth and competition for starting positions. He weathered through a one-win 2011 season the final-game win over Campus ended an 0-17 start with a young team that returns plenty of offensive size.
We had such a young team last year but we have so many guys coming back, junior Sean Bernard said. Everybody got bigger and stronger over the summer. Well be able to compete a lot better.
North got out of its spread offense late last season and will keep its two-back set this year. Quarterback Danny Jones transferred to West, but the Redskins will run more because of a line built around left tackle Daniel Mathiasen (6-8, 320) and guard Jonathan Villanueva (6-1, 250).
Senior tailback Leon Williams rushed for 408 yards last season and will get the bulk of the carries, especially with Bernard out early with a broken foot. Caleb Franklin (6-3, 220) will also see carries.
Josh Bryan and Zach Beard are competing for the quarterback job. Bryan started two games last season as a sophomore and throws well, Sayahnejad said, while Beard learned the position over the summer and brings athleticism from the basketball court, where hes the Redskins point guard.
North will look for defensive leadership early without Bernard, the starting middle linebacker and 2011 tackles leader. The Redskins gave up a 41.2-point average last season, allowing 63 twice in the first three weeks.
Things dont start off easy for North this time, either. After East in the opener, the Redskins face Bishop Carroll, Kapaun Mount Carmel and Great Bend. From there, four of the five remaining opponents had losing records last season.
Our biggest challenge is to find some depth and stay healthy, Sayahnejad said. We have a meatgrinder of a schedule early.