Thomas Dale (9-3) finished the season with a second round playoff lost to Colonial Forge, 42-21. The Knights lost record-setting quarterback Matt Lawton, defensive star Shundarius Carter (scored 26 points on defense, 17 sacks), two way standout Max Oxendine (Fork Union) and A.J. Lazaro (West Virginia Wesleyan).
Dale returns a good number of players in 2017- eight starters on defense and seven on offense and isn’t short on college talent- Chris Tyree, Devonte Chandler, Talvis Robinson, Michael Bailey and Dusan Stjepanovic are just a few of the Knights that will ascend to the next level- all have Division I offers.
Tucker said that safety and quarterback are probably the biggest concerns on the roster, but a tough senior, John Pierce will be the team’s signal caller, while several players are competing for the final spot in the secondary.
The Knights open with Cosby on August 25 at Ed Karpus Field in Chester before the Battle of Chester on September 1.
Quarterback: Senior John Pierce (5-9, 200) started one game against Varina last season, a game the Knights won 22-13. Tucker said the two-sport star (lacrosse) is tough as nails and has a heart go gold. “He’s someone that you would go to battle with everyday,” Tucker said. “He’s not afraid to fail, he’s going to battle.” Tucker added that Pierce has the ‘attitude of a linebacker.’
Running Backs: Many things have been written about Chris Tyree, who sports 4.4 speed and has big time offers from Penn State and Florida State. Thomas Dale started him out at wide receiver, then rushed for 717 yards in seven games before breaking his collarbone. He will be electric for Thomas Dale. Senior Elijah Burns has transitioned well from linebacker to running back. Tucker said he had a ‘heck of an offseason’ and has been a ‘pleasant surprise’ on the offensive side of the ball for the Knights.
Wide Receivers: Gynai James (6-2, 200) is a player to watch. Tucker likened him to Desmond Frye (Virginia Tech) and Brian Bullock (Lackawanna) but said James is more physical. He will also mix in at safety and linebacker. Jamarcus Wilson (5-7, 160) in Tucker’s words ‘can fly’ and is shifty. Michael Bailey (6-3, 180) is a defensive back and will play here and help create some mismatches.
Offensive Line: Senior Talvis Robinson (6-2, 290) is at guard and is committed to the Naval Academy. He’s a hard-working and aggressive guard that loves pull blocking and sweeps. He’ll lead the line along with senior Shane Carter (6-0, 275) who’s been a 2nd team Conference 3 honoree the past two seasons. He holds an offer from Virginia Union. Carter and Robinson have taken three sophomore starters under their wing to help get them ready for the rigors of a varsity season.
Defensive Line: Senior Dusan Stjepanovic (offer from Delaware State) is the unquestioned leader of the defensive line and had nine sacks last year. Tucker showed excitement about Richard D’Abreu who returns and is wearing #44, Tucker’s old number. At 6-1, 220 his coach said that he looks like an action figure with his physique (he’s ‘ripped’). Freshman Bryce Carter (6-2, 205) is Shane’s little brother and will get time on the time along with junior Malik Purvis (6-2, 250) who is a strong and powerful defensive tackle.
Linebackers: Now a senior, Devonte Chandler made his ‘debut’ as a sophomore linebacker, filling in for Sam Stark two seasons ago. Last year he amassed 145 tackles and seven sacks. Tucker said that he is strongly considering committing to Army or the Naval Academy. Treashawn Smith was an all-conference offensive tackle at 260 pounds two seasons ago. Now he’s the team’s starting middle linebacker at a trim 210 pounds. He’ll wear #11, the number of Malcolm Piggott, who passed away in an accident in 2007- only two players have won that number since then- C.J. Reavis and Max Oxendine. He’s got an offer from Virginia Union as well.
Defensive Backs: Michael Bailey and Chris Tyree will lead the unit. Bailey is a two year starter and has three offers- Army, Navy and Delaware State. Tucker said that he’s a quiet leader and uses his actions to lead his teammates. Senior Brent Williams led the team in interceptions and will play some safety and corner. Elijah Burns, JaMarcus Wilson and others will battle for playing time here.
Special Teams: On a team that’s sent three kickers to college- Plato Eliades (Bridgewater), Austin Feeser (Hampden-Sydney) and Anthony Prevost (Hampton), Tucker said that Garrett Graves could become the fourth. In a recent scrimmage, he averaged 48 yards per punt attempt and can kick field goals from 45-50 yards out with consistency.