According to linebacker Demond Bailey, one of Meadowbrook’s defensive leaders, there’s something different about this year’s version of the Monarchs.
“There’s a big difference,” said Bailey. “The whole team is all in.”
Bailey, who himself is a story of “being all-in,” comes back after a concussion knocked him out for the season in week three of last year. He will lead a defense that promises to be better to support an offense that will be filled with athletic weapons.
Last year’s record of 6-4 left a bad taste in head coach Troy Taylor’s mouth. While not a bad year by many school’s standards, the Monarchs are used to having more success. However, they did qualify for the 5A South playoffs as the seven seed, dropping a decision to second seeded Atlee 23-6.
The offense will be led by it’s third quarterback in three years as Gerard Johnson is now the starting running back at Old Dominion University and Talik Mann transferred to a school in Washington D.C. Two-way athlete D’Angelo Amos will be the team’s signal caller.
On both lines, penalties were an issue for the Monarchs, but more discipline and experience should improve that.
Heading to the next level from last year’s team are linebacker Kane Smith (Randolph-Macon), lineman Cameron Artis (UVA Wise), wide receiver Terrelle Whitaker (Lackawanna), lineman Cornelius Tyler (Fork Union) and offensive linemen Marlon and Rashad Short (Bluefield).
Meadowbrook opens their season with an important match-up on the road at Hermitage August 28.
Quarterback: The two-way player is also a talented defensive back with three offers from West Point, James Madison and Virginia Military Institute. Amos is both a smart player and student with a 3.6 GPA. Taylor said that Amos added a valuable skill to the offense with his ability to beat defenders with his feet.
Running Back: Justin Miller, who picked up his first offer this summer from Campbell is another prime example of a student athlete, rushing for over 1,000 yards while maintaining a 3.0 GPA. He’ll look to carry a heavy load for the Monarchs in 2014. His brother, junior Jace Miller will get reps here as well.
Wide Receiver: Khylil James and Jonathan Bunns will be the team’s top two receivers. Jeff Lee will play tight end again in 2014. James, known for his defense has three offers of his own with Appalachian State, Liberty and James Madison targeting the senior. His athleticism and play on the other side of the ball will help. Jonathan Bunns is the team’s utility player, lining up at punter, tight end in the slot, while also playing defense. Bunns was also one of Meadowbrook’s best pitchers on the diamond last spring.
Offensive Line: This unit is big in 2014 and promises to open holes for Miller and Amos while providing protection. Guards Chris Artis (6’2 280) and Linwood Bolling (5’10 280) return after starting all 11 games in 2013. Senior Donovan Easter (6’1 290) will start this year for this first time in his career. Donte Braxton (6’2 270) and Mike Crewe (6’ 290) round out the starters.
Defensive Line: While Cornelius Tyler will be missed on both the offensive and defensive lines, the Monarchs were young at both posts. Jeff Lee (6’3 240) should be a force at defensive end, and Jesse Gilmer, a junior promoted from junior varsity is expected to contribute. Lee, also a skilled basketball player, has D-1 interest from several schools, but no offers as of press time.
Linebackers: Despite losing Marquie Phillips and Kane Smith, the team’s leader on and off the field, the Monarchs are strong at this position again in 2014. Junior Darryl White and Senior Demond Bailey will start here and are expected to lead the defense. Both players had experience at defensive end and are making the full-time move. Taylor described his linebackers as two that “play downhill” and that are tough and physical.
Defensive Backs: Khylil James and D’Angelo Amos lead this group and this, too, should be a talented one for the Monarchs. James is a playmaker type cornerback and showed it as a pick 6 against Matoaca last season gave Meadowbrook the momentum at the half as they went on to win. Amos is perhaps equally as talented.
Special Teams: Anthony Escobar, Jonathan Argueta and Frankie Arias will handle the kicking and punting duties.
ONE TO WATCH:
Justin Miller, senior
5’10, 180 pounds
A motivated Justin Miller is something other Central Region teams could do without. After a successful junior campaign and his first college offer, Miller is hungry for more.
“I’ve been lifting a lot, working on speed, doing a lot of speed drills,” explained Miller. “I’m trying to learn everything I can.”
A big offensive line with more discipline will help move the sticks as Troy Taylor looks to get back to running the ball more.
With his grades and skill other colleges will come calling, and with an improved season from Miller, the Monarchs will navigate a difficult schedule en route to a playoff berth.