Coach: Gardner Howard, second year, 3-7
Last Year: 3-7 (3-4, TCAL)
Forecast: As Waite’s athletic department continues dealing with the major blowback other surviving TPS schools are suffering in wake of the recent City League exodus by non-TPS schools, the Indians football team should at least give its students and supporters something to cheer about in coach Gardner Howard’s second year.
The Indians are coming off a three-win season in the CL and bring back a wealth of experience from that performance with 13 returning starters (seven defense, six offense), 15 returning letterwinners overall and a huge senior class with 15 on board for 2010- the last year for the CL as the area knows it.
“We are very excited and optimistic about this season,” said Howard. “The kids are returning to a system they already know, so they’re comfortable which puts us much farther along than we were last year.”
Five players transfered into the program from the closed Libbey High School, and Howard said senior outside linebacker Mike DeLuca (5-8, 180) has caught his eye. DeLuca started as a junior for the Cowboys.
Among the numerous returnees, seniors Garry Cummins (6-0, 225), Antoine Jackson (6-3, 230), Henry Newson (6-4, 195), Lloyd Donaldson (6-1, 215) and Alex Ramirez (6-0, 225) give Gardner’s tribe a very strong leadership base. On defense last year, Donaldson had 52 tackles, including 11 for a loss. Cummins (offensive guard) and Ramirez (center) were both Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press honorable mention selections last year.
Cummins and Jackson are both returning starters on both sides of the pigskin, with Cummins resuming his work at inside linebacker and offensive tackle and Jackson returning to tackle duties on either side of the line of scrimmage.
Newson will be one of the primary wideout targets in Waite’s spread offense and will also utilize his 6-4 height at tight end.
Ramirez returns as the team’s standout starting center and he can also play defensive tackle, while Donaldson helps anchor the line in Gardner’s 4-3 defense.
Opposite Newson should be returning junior starting receiver Devonte Hughes (6-1, 170). Hughes will also start as a defensive back.
On the offensive side, Hughes caught 21 passes for 282 yards (13.4 yards per catch) and one touchdown. Hughes also played some quarterback behind graduated starter and All-Press Honorable Mention quarterback Mike Thanasiu (677 yards passing with five touchdowns). Hughes completed 12-of-20 passes (60 percent) for 132 yards and one touchdown. Hughes was Waite's only selection on the All-Press First Team offense, picked for his accolades as a receiver.
Junior Kevin Carter is the returning starting tailback, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and scoring eight touchdowns on the ground and from pass receptions. Coming off a 600-yard rushing season with six touchdown runs, Carter caught 12 passes for 258 yards (21.5) and two touchdowns. Carter was a second team selection on the All-Press Team.
Carter (5-9, 165) figures to be the key fixture taking carries out of the backfield, but Howard also has his sights set on an upcoming sophomore back in 5-10, 190-pound Carron Barringer.
“He will definitely get a lot of carries for us,” Howard stated.
The ever essential quarterback spot remains unlocked as a close battle remains intact between sophomore Johnny Douanglee (6-0, 145) and junior Mike Kachmarik (6-0, 165).
Douanglee already owns the starting gig at free safety.
Once the QB controversy is ironed out, Gardner figures Waite can be a steady force this fall and perhaps even pull off an upset or two against one of the usual suspects in Central Catholic, Whitmer, St. John’s and St. Francis before those schools leave for greener pastures in 2011.
“We’ve got the speed and athleticism to hold our own against anyone,” said Howard. “We’re comparable to the rest of the league.
“It’s just going to be a matter of getting the kids to snap and execute.”