“Last year’s loss to Mill Creek was tough because we lost four defensive starters midway through the second quarter,” said head coach Jason Dukes, entering his fifth year at the helm for Alpharetta.
“Our kids fought back and even took the lead with a minute to play. It was a learning experience for everybody and has served as motivation for us this season.”
The Raiders will be without graduated quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who was recognized as one of the top quarterbacks in Georgia and will attend the University of Tennessee this fall. Seniors Austin King and Vito Priore will compete for the starting quarterback position with Elijah Burnette expected to be used in special run packages as well.
The quarterbacks will benefit from having one of the top receivers in the state, senior Daniel Clements, to ease the transition. Clements’ 1,286 yards and 12 touchdowns last season were both the third-most in Class AAAAAA for Georgia. “Daniel has worked very hard in the offseason to transform his body,” said Dukes.
“He’s always had great hands along with his technique and attention to detail this summer has been fantastic. The sky is the limit.”
Alpharetta’s defense will be led by a top-level secondary which may the best the Raiders have had going into a season. Senior DeAndre Watkins, who had a team-high three interceptions last season, and junior Devin Mayers will start at cornerback while two veterans, seniors Chase Stratton and Jay Youngblood, will provide support at the safety positions.
The leading tackler for the past two seasons, senior Bryce Grauss, will return at linebacker along with junior defensive end Andrew Butcher to lead an inexperienced front seven. Senior Auzoyah Alufohai and juniors Austin Hoffman and Brandon Meeks are expected to see increased roles this season on the defensive line.
“We expect to win a state championship,” said Dukes. “We know it’s a difficult goal but if you don’t set it, there’s no way that it will happen. We want to win the region and feel we have the team to do that, but it doesn’t happen without execution. We’re focused on getting better.”