“The region we were in last year in GISA was pretty tough,” coach Reggie Burnette said. “We had top teams, and I don’t see a big difference in personnel. Talent-wise, [at the] skill positions, there’s a little bit more in GHSA, but as far as size of line and schemes and things of that nature, I think they’re pretty close.”
Region 5-A welcomes a team that’s very confident in its ability to get the ball in the end zone.
Led by junior quarterback Elijah Burnette (the coach’s son) and a no-huddle spread offense, the Mustangs put up 55 points or more in all four of their victories, averaging 37.7 overall. In his second year as the starter, Burnette completed 165 of 300 passes (55 percent) for 2,695 yards and 28 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, while also rushing for 1,109 yards and 19 touchdowns on 148 carries (7.5 yards per rush).
“Being the only returning captain from last year, being the quarterback, being at a position everybody looks up to, yeah, I’m pretty comfortable in that spot,” Elijah Burnette said.
Although he won’t have receivers Ty Hudson and Mikell Lands to throw to after they transferred to Pebblebrook and Alexander, respectively, he’ll have Browning Dunn, Evan Tucker and Keon Douglas to target at the inside receiver positions. Tucker is the team’s lone senior.
While the Mustang offense was excellent, Mount Vernon went from 6-4 in 2010 to 4-7 in 2011, allowing more than 42 points per loss to a tough schedule that included GISA state Class AAA champion Tattnall Square and runner-up Stratford.
Facing the likes of high-scoring squads like Holy Innocents’, Pace, Eagle’s Landing Christian and Landmark Christian in 2012, it’s obvious where the Mustangs have to improve in order to compete in their new home.
“Overall, we have to play better defense this year against a lot of these teams,” Reggie Burnette said. “That’s what our focus is going to be, through training camp, is playing better defense, run defense in particular.”
Judge Jones, a three-year starter, will line up at defensive tackle and offensive guard, and George Gavalas will play linebacker and offensive guard. It’s a youth-dominated squad, with 27 of the 34 players freshmen and sophomores, and the Mustangs will adjust their blocking schemes accordingly as more players identify themselves as trustworthy in the trenches.
“We just don’t have that size, but in this system, you’re not pounding the ball going straight ahead,” Burnette said. “We do a lot of single-wing-type blocking, lot of down blocks, a lot of misdirection plays. It’s going to be about health. If you have a couple guys go down, it’ll make it tough, but we feel really good about what we’re doing up front.”
Aug. 24 at Mount Pisgah Christian
Aug. 31 St. Francis
Sept. 15 Pinecrest Academy
Sept. 22 at Cross Keys (Adams Stadium)
Sept. 28 at Landmark Christian*
Oct. 6 Holy Innocents’*
Oct. 12 at Eagle’s Landing Christian*
Oct. 27 Our Lady of Mercy*
Nov. 2 at Strong Rock Chr.*
Nov. 10 Pace*
*denotes region game